Pope Francis has given his apostolic blessing to a worldwide rosary relay for priests.

In a message to the Worldpriest Rosary Relay for the Sanctification of Priests 2020, dated April 25, the pope expressed his support for the event which takes place June 19.

Participating shrines pray a mystery of the rosary at a designated half hour in thanksgiving for the priesthood and to seek Mary’s protection for priests. They pray in relay across time zones until the globe has been encircled in prayer.

The message, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to learn of the Annual Global Rosary Relay for Priests to take place on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

“He joins all taking part in praying that priests everywhere will be confirmed in their ministry of proclaiming and celebrating the merciful love of Christ the Redeemer, and become ever more fully shepherds after his own Heart.”

“To all he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.”

Archbishop Neary is the episcopal adviser to Worldpriest, which was founded in 2003 by Irish entrepreneur Marion Mulhall. She established the organization to “affirm the dignity, beauty and gift of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ to Humanity.”

In 2009, Mulhall oversaw the launch of the Global Rosary Relay, which takes place annually on the feast of the Sacred Heart.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, organizers are encouraging participants in this year’s rally to livestream their prayers or, if that is not possible, to pray in small numbers in churches, respecting measures to restrict the spread of the disease.

The Worldpriest website explains that all Catholics can participate in the event from any location.

“Simply join in prayer with many of the livestreaming presentations, such as the live television broadcasts by Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) -- our media partners -- or through radio, Facebook Live and YouTube, all broadcast from many prayer locations worldwide,” it says.

The global rosary rally began with 24 locations in 24 countries. Last year it recorded 255 locations in more than 70 countries.

This year Catholics in more than 85 countries are expected to take part. Locations include Our Lady of Magadan in Russia’s Far East, the Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho in Rwanda, the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.