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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Across the world, millions of Catholics are marking the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by praying for the sanctification of priests.
Friday marks the 10th annual Global Rosary Relay, an intercessory campaign in which faithful ask God to shower Catholic clergy with the grace to "persevere in unity with Christ and his Church and shepherd the Lord's flock to the safe pastures of his Kingdom."
An initiative of the Worldpriest Global Apostolate, the relay is designed such that the Rosary is recited every half-hour throughout the day. In total, organizers are hoping the event will yield one billion Hail Marys for priests.
As the apostolate's website explains:
Each of the participating shrines around the world prays a particular mystery of the Rosary at a particular half hour in thanksgiving to God for our priests and to implore the protection and loving care of Our Lady, Mother of all priests, for all her priestly sons. At midnight on the Annual Global Rosary Relay day, which falls on the feast of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the entire world, is encircled in prayer for our priests.
Beginning with just 24 shrines in 24 countries, the campaign has grown markedly since its launch in 2009. This year's relay is taking place at 255 shrines in more than 70 countries.
"The whole world is in prayer the whole day," Global Rosary Relay founder and coordinator Marion Mulhall told Catholic News Agency on Thursday.
Mulhall noted that Catholics anywhere can participate in the campaign: "Anybody who prays the rosary on Friday — it doesn't matter what time it is or where they are — can be pretty much guaranteed that they are joining, even if they may not realize it, with a participating prayer location around the world."
The relay takes place each year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which in 2002 St. Pope John Paul II was designated the World Day of Prayer for Priests.
The 2019 campaign comes amid unprecedented turmoil in the Church. A year after Theodore McCarrick was outed as a serial predator of altar boys, seminarians and young priests, the clerical sex abuse and cover-up crisis continues to widen.
Just this week, the diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, reached a $34 million settlement with 93 alleged victims, while in Spain, public prosecutors called for the Ministry of Justice to launch a national investigation into the rising number of sex abuse cases involving predator priests.
Meanwhile, many faithful are nervously eyeing developments ahead of the Pan-Amazon Synod in Rome. In recent weeks, a stream of reports has emerged indicating that heterodox elements inside the Vatican intend to use the October gathering of bishops as a means to ram through "heretical" changes to the Church.
Against this backdrop, faithful Catholics are viewing the Global Rosary Relay as a desperately needed vehicle of grace.