Basilica of St. Mary Major offers daily Eucharistic blessing of Rome under lockdown

Marian basilica offers daily Eucharistic blessing of Rome under lockdown

Benediction at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome May 7, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Benediction at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome May 7, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

.- A Eucharistic blessing of the city of Rome has been offered each day from the doorstep of Rome’s largest Marian basilica as coronavirus measures restricted the public from attending Masses.

The daily Eucharistic procession and benediction takes place in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major immediately following a livestreamed Mass at 11 a.m. local time from the chapel containing the Marian icon Salus Populi Romani, Mary Protection of the Roman People.

“The cardinal archpriest, all the canons, priests and religious of this basilica wish to give testimony to the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Doctor and Medicine for humanity tried by this pandemic,” states a caption for the video of a benediction from the loggia on March 21. 

As Rome entered phase two of coronavirus restrictions this week, more people have been able to witness the Eucharistic procession and blessing in person. In the second phase of Italy’s lockdown, which began May 4, residents are allowed to exercise and go for walks in the city with facemasks.

On the first day of the eased restrictions, a tour guide in Rome stumbled upon the Eucharistic procession in the basilica.

“I saw that confession was available and adoration was taking place. Following adoration, the priests processed the Blessed Sacrament through the church and into the piazza for a benediction over the city. They then walked to the back door and out into that piazza for another benediction,” Mountain Butorac told CNA. 

“This being one of my first experiences in church in nearly two months brought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart,” he said.

Public Masses will be able to resume in the Diocese of Rome and throughout Italy beginning on May 18, 70 days after the restrictions on Mass went into effect.

During Rome’s lockdown, Pope Francis made a brief walking pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray for the Virgin Mary’s protection from the coronavirus pandemic affecting Italy and the world.

The pope later had the basilica’s Byzantine icon of Salus Populi Romani brought to St. Peter’s Square for the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi benediction on March 27. The Marian icon remained inside the basilica throughout the Easter Triduum liturgies.

The Salus Populi Romani icon was also processed through Rome by Pope Gregory I for an end to a plague in 593.

Among the four major papal basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major is the only one that maintained its original structure. Mosaics dating back to the 5th century can be seen in the central nave of the basilica, which also houses the relic of the Holy Crib from the birth of Christ.

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to both a nobleman named John and to Pope Liberius (352-366) in a dream foretelling the August snow and asking for a church to be built in her honor on the site of the snowfall on Aug. 5 in the year 358. The church was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 declared Mary to be the Mother of God.

Vespers and prayers of the holy rosary are offered via livestream each day from the Marian basilica just before 5 p.m. in Rome.

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