WASHINGTON — Catholic Church leaders around the country offered prayers for Pope Francis following the Vatican’s March 29 announcement that he would be hospitalized in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for a few days to treat a respiratory infection.
Bishop Robert Brennan said in a tweet that afternoon that he “along with so many of the Catholic Faithful, pray for the Holy Father. In fact, we will pray in a special way during the previously scheduled Lenten Pilgrimage at Corpus Christi where I will lead the rosary at 7:30 this evening.”
In a March 30 video message, Bishop Brennan said he prayed the “rosary before the Blessed Sacrament with about 300 people, and we prayed in a particular way, our intention was the health of the Holy Father and for his healing.
“Today I’m over at Immaculate Conception and at Mass we prayed for him as well. I am praying for him, people from all over Brooklyn and Queens are praying. We join people from all around the world.”
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan tweeted that he was “following the updates on the Holy Father through the media. Please join me in keeping him in prayer for a speedy return to health!”
While church leaders offered their prayers and well wishes for the 86-year-old pontiff on social media, the pope similarly used this platform to respond to this outpouring of encouragement. In a March 30 tweet from his Twitter account, @Pontifex, he said: “I am touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”
Bishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a March 29 statement urging all Catholics to pray for the pope’s recovery.
“We pray intensely for our Holy Father,” he said, adding that on behalf of his brother bishops, he invited “all the faithful to pause, if possible before the Blessed Sacrament” to pray for the pope’s speedy recovery.
“May our dear shepherd and all those in need of healing experience the comfort of Christ,” he said.
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark also asked people to join him in prayer for the pope’s “quick and full recovery.” He tweeted on March 29: “May Our Lady Health of the Sick accompany him now and in the days ahead.”
Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez also used Twitter to call on the faithful to pray for the pope and said: “We entrust him to the tender care of Our Lady of Guadalupe and we ask that she keep him close in her love.”
Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory similarly urged those in the Archdiocese of Washington “and people of goodwill everywhere,” to join him in praying for Pope Francis “that he quickly regains his health and strength in order to preside at the ceremonies of Holy Week so central to the life of our Church.”
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, in a March 29 statement, asked those in the Chicago Archdiocese to pray for the pope’s “swift and complete recovery.
“Over the past month,” he said, “people around the world prayed millions of Hail Marys to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Holy Father’s election to the chair of Peter. We responded then to Pope Francis’ often-repeated request to pray for him. Let us continue our prayers, this time for the return of this extraordinary shepherd to good health and to his work of spreading the joy of God’s love and mercy.”
Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, said in a March 30 statement that the pope’s “clinical picture is progressively improving, and he is continuing with his planned treatment.”
The statement also noted that after the pope had breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed work. Later that morning he prayed in a private chapel in the hospital and received the Eucharist.
Vatican News reported that wishes for the pope’s “speedy recovery are pouring into the Vatican.”
Some have been wondering whether the pope’s health would preclude him from celebrating liturgies during Holy Week. Bishop Brennan said that if the pope is unable to celebrate those liturgies, “there are many senior cardinals in Rome. I’m sure he’ll delegate those responsibilities to the cardinals who assist him.”