The prayer was the culmination of a worldwide day of fasting, prayer, and penance for peace in the world called for by the pope amid the escalating war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Pope Francis presided over the prayer of the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, the Litany of Loreto, and Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
During Eucharistic adoration, the congregation asked the Lord Jesus to console those who suffer, enlighten those who govern, break the plots of war, dissolve hatred, strengthen hope, reconcile hearts, protect the poor, and welcome those who have died, praying, “Da pacem Domine in diebus nostris,” meaning “Grant peace, O Lord, in our time.”
Pope Francis spoke from a chair off to the side from the main altar of the basilica. He reflected on the Virgin Mary’s humility and strength during her son’s crucifixion: “When on Calvary a sword pierced your heart … you kept alive the hope of Easter through the night of sorrow.”
“Now, Mother, once more take the initiative for us, in these times rent by conflicts and laid waste by the fire of arms,” he said. “Teach us to cherish and care for life — each and every human life — and to repudiate the folly of war, which sows death and eliminates the future.”
Pope Francis did not mention Israel, Gaza, or the Holy Land by name in his prayer, but asked the Virgin Mary to “grant that glimmers of light illuminate the dark night of conflict.”
“Dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, inspire the leaders of nations to seek the paths of peace. Queen of all peoples, reconcile your children, seduced by evil, blinded by power and hate,” he said. “Mother, Queen of Peace, pour forth into our hearts God’s gift of harmony.”
After the congregation sang the Eucharistic hymn, “Tantum Ergo” and the Divine Praises, the Blessed Sacrament was placed back in the Tabernacle and the choir sang Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord, all you nations. Extol him, all you peoples. His mercy for us is strong; the faithfulness of the Lord is forever.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.