In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the daily lives and routines of millions of people have been turned upside down, Pope Francis said, but Catholics must help each other stay firm in faith.
In a video message released yesterday to mark the feast of St Joseph, the pope said Jesus' stepfather also knew "uncertainty and disappointment" and worry about what the future would bring, but he still placed himself without reservation into God's hands.
The Vatican released the text of the pope's message a few hours before the video was to be broadcast as part of a campaign, led by the Italian bishops' conference, to have Catholics pray the rosary together for an end to the pandemic, for the healing of the sick and for the well-being of families in their second week of lockdown.
"The rosary is the prayer of the humble and of the saints who use its mysteries to contemplate with Mary the life of Jesus, the merciful face of the Father," the pope said in his message. "How we all need to be truly consoled, to feel surrounded by his loving presence.
"With the Virgin Mother, we beg the Lord to free the world from every form of pandemic."
Pope Francis said he understood how the lockdown could be difficult for families whose worlds now are "restricted to the walls of our homes", but he urged people to be kind and gentle and "be the first to demonstrate charity, understanding, patience, forgiveness".
He said: "This evening, we pray together, entrusting ourselves to the intercession of St Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family, guardian of our families. Even the carpenter from Nazareth knew uncertainty and disappointment, concern about the future, but he also knew how to walk in the dark of certain moments letting himself be guided, without reservation, by God's will."
Pope Francis prayed that God would enlighten scientists seeking a cure for the pandemic and political leaders, so that, like St Joseph, they would safeguard the good of all those entrusted to their care.
"Sustain those who give of themselves for the needy," he prayed to St Joseph, mentioning especially "the volunteers, nurses, doctors, who are on the frontlines in caring for the sick, even at the cost of their own safety."
He prayed that God would make the church "a sign and instrument of your light and goodness" and that St Joseph accompany families.
"With your prayerful silence, build harmony between parents and children, especially the smallest ones," he prayed to the saint, adding: "Protect the elderly from solitude. Make sure that no one is left in the desperation of abandonment and discouragement. Console those who are most fragile, encourage those who waver, intercede for the poor."
In addition, Reuters reported that Catholics around the world joined Pope Francis in praying the rosary on Thursday night, to ask God to end the pandemic. Italy’s bishops asked the country’s Catholics to say the rosary in their homes starting at 9pm and to light a candle in their window.
The Tablet has an online list of useful spiritual and other resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.