Pope Francis has decided to deliver an extraordinary ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing this Friday, March 27, in light of the ongoing pandemic keeping the world indoors and Catholics away from physically receiving the sacraments.

German priest Johannes Grohe, a professor of Church History at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, explains: “The ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing is known as the papal blessing. The newly elected pontiff imparts it from the benediction loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. It is given to the city of Rome and the Catholic world spread throughout the globe. The same blessing is given on the day of the Nativity of the Lord and on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection.”

The blessing dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. Over the years, it was eventually extended to the entire Catholic population. “The formula of the words, ‘Urbs et Orbis’, was seen for the first time in the title of the Lateran basilica: ‘omnium Urbis et orbis ecclesiarum Mater et Caput’. These words frame the first cathedral church, built in Rome during the time of Emperor Constantine, “says Professor Grohe.

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