A Pilgrimage for Pope Francis to Churches in Rome Praying for the End of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Pope Francis delivers his Sunday blessing from inside the Apostolic library at the Vatican. Francis praised people who risked contagion to help the poor and the homeless, even as fears of the coronavirus's spread prompts ever more countries to restrict ways of everyday life.

Pope Francis makes a Pilgrimage through Rome.

His two moments of prayer in Rome included: a visit to the ancient icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the other at the foot of a wooden crucifix that protected Rome from a great plague that is housed at St. Marcellus (in English) on the Corso; La chiesa di San Marcello al Corso. The church is dedicated to Pope Marcellus I.

Image result for St. Marcel on the Corso.

Pope Francis visited these two churches in Rome on Sunday to pray for the end of the coronavirus pandemic. He headed first to a Rome basilica, St. Mary Major. The Basilica of Saint Mary Major, or Santa Maria Maggiore, is a Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome.

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There he prayed before an icon of the Virgin Mary dedicated to the “salvation of the Roman people (Salus Populi Romani). “The image was connected to the faith of the Roman people in times of dire health emergencies. According to legend, late in the 6th century Pope Gregory I had the icon carried through the streets of Rome in prayer that the Black Plague would end, and in 1837, Pope Gregory XVI prayed before the image for an end to a devastating cholera outbreak.”

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Salus Populi Romani (Protectress, or more literally health or salvationof the Roman People) is a title associated with the venerated image of the Virgin Mary. This Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Christ Child holding a Gospel book is kept in the Borghese (Pauline) Chapel of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

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After that, the 83-year-old pope left the basilica and headed toward central Piazza Venezia, strolling along a brief stretch of Via del Corso, a noted shopping street for Romans. He then entered a church that most tourists neglect called St. Marcellus on the Corso.

The crucifix at the church of St. Marcellus is a 15th-century wooden crucifix that survived a fire in 1519 when the original church on the site burned to the ground. “The morning after the fire, while the ruins were still smoldering, people found the crucifix intact. Some Catholics began gathering every Friday evening to pray together, eventually forming the Confraternity of the Most Holy Crucifix.”

The existing church was completed between 1692–1697 with a facade by Carlo Fontana.

The exterior travertine statues were sculpted by Francesco Cavallini, and the stucco bas-relief over the entrance, with depicts San Filippo Benizio, was created by Antonio Raggi. Benizio was a member of the Servite order.

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The Bass Relief shows: Saint Philip Benizi “Refusing the Papal Tiara by Antonio Raggi .  recalling the legend that the 15th century saint was elected pope but did not consider himself worthy of being the Vicar of Christ. The sculpture is in a molded tondo supported by a pair of lively and very realistic angels, and there is also a putto crawling over the top of the frame.

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The church has a “miraculous crucifix” or Crocifisso Miracoloso that was carried in a 1522 procession through the neighborhoods of the city for 16 days so that the Great Plague of Rome ended,”  according to Matteo Bruni director of the Vatican press office.

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Miraculous crucifix

The venerated wooden crucifix at the church of San Marcello on the Corso is from the 15th century; scholars concur that it is the most realistic in Rome. According to legend, it not only survived a fire but also saved the city from a plague. Pope St. John Paul II embraced that same crucifix to mark the culmination of the Day of Forgiveness during the Jubilee Year of 2000.

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Image result for St. Marcel on the Corso.Crocifisso Miracoloso

Image result for St. Marcel on the Corso.miraculous crucifix

La processione del Crocifisso a corso Vittorio nel 1931, above

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