By Richard Szczepanowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will host a recitation of the rosary on Monday, May 17, at noon (EDT) as part of Pope Francis’ call for a worldwide marathon of rosaries for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each day during May at noon, the rosary will be prayed from a different Marian shrine around the world. Pope Francis began the rosary marathon May 1 at the Vatican and will conclude it there on May 31.
Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory will lead the recitation of the rosary at the basilica May 17.
“It is an honor for us to participate in this important initiative of the Holy Father as he invites the world to offer this great Marian prayer asking God, through the intercession of Our Lady, to bring an end to the pandemic,” said Msgr. Walter Rossi, the basilica’s rector.
Last month, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization announced the worldwide rosary marathon during May, which is traditionally devoted to Mary.
“Dating back to the Middle Ages, the month of May has been dedicated to Our Lady … in each of (her) apparitions, Our Lady called for the rosary to be prayed for conversation of hearts and as an instrument for world peace. Now we offer this prayer in hope that with vaccines being administered, our world will return to a form of normalcy,” Msgr. Rossi said.
In addition to the Washington basilica, other Marian Shrines that have or will participate in the monthlong global rosary are those located in Ireland, Belgium, Algeria, Portugal, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Australia, France, Turkey, Cuba, Japan, Canada, Malta, Mexico, Ukraine, Germany, Lebanon and Italy.
Each of the participating Marian shrines around the world will pray the rosary for a specific prayer intention. The May 17 rosary at the basilica will be prayed for “all world leaders and for all heads of international organizations.”
Other intentions during the month include for an end to the pandemic, for all of humanity, for all who have died, for the sick, for expectant mothers, for pharmacists and other health care workers, for peace, for nurses and doctors and for essential workers.
The overall theme for the worldwide event is: “From the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God,” which and comes a passage in the Acts of the Apostles that describes how all members of the church prayed for St. Peter’s miraculous escape from prison.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said in a letter to Cardinal Gregory that this year the month of May is “dedicated in a special way to prayer for an end to the coronavirus pandemic,” and asked the cardinal to “promote the initiative and to encourage the participation of the faithful in it.”
This will be the third time that the basilica has joined an international effort in praying for the intercession of Mary during the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 1, 2020, at the basilica, then-Archbishop Gregory joined with bishops throughout the United States and Canada in rededicating the two countries to Our Lady.
And on May 30 last year, while the basilica was closed to the public as part of the effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, Msgr. Rossi and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate prayed the rosary in the Great Upper Church at the same time the pope led the rosary from inside the Vatican Gardens in Rome. That livestream was broadcast around the world along with the prayers from the other Marian shrines.
The May 17 recitation of the rosary will be livestreamed from the basilica’s website www.nationalshrine.org/mass and on various Vatican social media platforms. EWTN will also broadcast the prayer.
“With the world living for more than a year in pandemic mode, I trust that everyone would agree that we need some ‘rearranging’,” Msgr. Rossi told the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper of Washington. “And so, my hope is that through this monthlong worldwide praying of the rosary, Our Lady will look favorably upon our pleas and present our great need before her Son.”
The rosary recitation is open to the public. The basilica can host up to 1,000 people while maintaining social distancing guidelines and other safety protocols.
Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.