It was between these two ancient images that Francis led the world in a simple prayer. The reading of the account of the Stilling of the Storm in Mark 4:36-41 (read by a lay person), words of reflection from the pope, walking through the rain again to pray before each of the two ancient images, kissing the feet of the crucified Christ.
And then into the portico, the “front porch” of St Peter’s, where the Eucharist was brought to a temporary altar, while the choir inside the church sang Parce, Domine, “Spare Lord, spare your people.” There Francis was joined in silent prayer by just a few of the residents of the Vatican.
And then, while St Peter’s rang every bell it had to let the people of Rome know what was happening, Francis took the monstrance containing the Eucharist in his hands, walked out to the steps, and blessed “Urbi et Orbi.” That blessing, of “The City and The World,” is reserved for two occasions, Christmas Day and Easter Day. It is normally delivered from the pope’s window in the Vatican apartments, using his raised hand. Francis chose this Friday of Lent to bless the world with the True Presence of Christ, from the steps of St Peter’s, in the rain.
There is an ancient tradition of the popes to visit a different church in Rome each day of Lent and the Easter Octave. They are known as Station Churches. Today’s designated church is San Eusebio, the church of the Roman martyr Eusebius. But I noticed on the papal calendar the designation today was changed to “Statio Orbi.” Today, the pope’s church was not San Eusebio, nor even San Pietro where he stood, it was the world. [Fr. Lou Meiman]