In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis will give an extraordinary blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and The World) at 1 p.m. EST Friday, March 27.

The formal blessing – usually given only immediately after a new Pope's election and on Christmas and Easter – carries with it a plenary indulgence for all who follow by television, internet or radio, are sorry for their sins, recite a few prescribed prayers and promise to go to confession and to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.

In a message to his priests, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., encouraged the faithful of the Diocese of Trenton to join in this extraordinary opportunity to pray with the Holy Father and the world, and receive the Pope’s formal blessing.

The pontiff plans to give the address at 6 p.m. Rome time to an empty St. Peter’s Square, devoid of pilgrims due to Italy’s countrywide lockdown. It will consist of Scriptural readings, prayers of supplication and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and will conclude with the “Urbi et Orbi.”

The message carries with it a plenary indulgence, which is an ancient practice of prayer and penance for the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Catholic teaching a, person can draw on the merits of Jesus and the saints to claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died.

Faithful of the Diocese of Trenton may witness the Pope’s blessing locally via diocesan social media, television, radio and online.

Pleading for unity of faith, Pope Francis said, “To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness. Let us make those who are alone and tested feel our closeness,” as well as doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and volunteers, he added.

The Pope also expressed concern for “authorities who have to take strong measures for our good” and the police and soldiers maintaining public order and enforcing the lockdown.