MAY 13, 1981: THE SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD’
Where Were You 39 Years Ago – May 13, 1981?
Well, let me tell you about that day, one I’ll never forget, a day the world, the Church will never forget. A day the world stood still.
A story I first wrote several years after the attempt on John Paul’s life.
I was on my way to St. Peter’s Square for the 5:00 pm general audience that Pope John Paul had just begun to preside. The weather had been very warm and the Vatican had moved the audiences from the hot late morning sun to a later time in the afternoon.
As I walked towards the square after having a coffee in a small bar nearby, I saw a group of Italian students, perhaps 30 of them, perhaps 10-years old, walking away from St. Peter’s Square with their teacher. They were not running so there was no reason to worry and I didn’t give them a second thought, except to wonder why they were leaving the papal audience, instead of attending it.
And then I heard a scream! A voice shouted in Italian, “They’ve shot the pope!”
My mind could not process those words together. My feet seemed nailed to the sidewalk, I was momentarily paralyzed – it may have been five seconds or less but I couldn’t move! When I finally absorbed the shock, I ran towards St. Peter’s Square where people were not quietly listening to what should have been a papal catechesis, rather they were going in all directions, asking each other what they heard, asking each other what they had seen. There were a lot of tears, so many people holding their heads, shaking their heads in disbelief, but always the tears.
My mind still could not conceive the words “They’ve shot the pope.” It was unbelievable, unimaginable. Who in their right mind would want to shoot a man of such magnificent spirituality, such great teaching, such wisdom and humanity and humor, a man whose entire life was a life of prayer, of service, of dedication, of singular love for his Church love for his people, for all people?
Where was that life now – 5:30 in the afternoon of Wednesday, May 13? Had it ended? Was it hanging in the balance? Was it possible to go from joy to sorrow in only a nanosecond?
As I was running towards the square to see what had happened, one of the more amazing things happened.
I entered St. Peter’s Square and asked in as many languages as I knew what people had heard and what they had seen. At a certain point, a very tall American priest, with an obviously worried expression on his face, came up and asked me if I knew the whereabouts of the two women in his pilgrimage group who had been shot along with Pope John Paul!
Naturally, I was absolutely floored and asked him their names and if he thought they had been taken to a hospital. To this day, 39 years later, I remember those names: Ann Odre was a senior citizen in Father’s group and Rose Hall was the wife of a military man who had just come from – or was perhaps going to – Germany to see him. I made inquiries and found that both women had been taken to the nearby Santo Spirito hospital where, a day or two later, I visited Ann Odre.
Obviously the confusion in the Square surpassed understanding. And, in a way, the relative silence surpassed understanding. There was probably more silence than there should have been with a crowd of that size but people were praying, people were not talking, so many were struck dumb by the idea someone would want to shoot a pope.
John Paul of course became the focus of everyone’s attention: the faithful in the square, the people of Rome whose bishop had just been shot and, thanks to the media, people around the world. As a member of the media, I ran back to the press office to tell my colleagues what I had learned. I worked for a weekly newspaper in Rome at the time – the International Daily American – and also wrote a weekly column for the National Catholic Register as the Rome bureau chief. Working for a weekly it was tough to have a scoop but what I had discovered in the square, especially the information about the two American women, had to be shared with all of my fellow journalists.
For hours we were on the phone. We all called our contacts to ask who might have been in the square, what they saw, what they heard. Bit by bit, information was pieced together. We learned that a man with a gun, had raised it, pointed it at the pope and fired shots and was immediately wrestled to the ground by a nun. The man, we later discovered, was a Turkish citizen named Ali Agca who was immediately taken into custody.
No one even thought of leaving the press office: Throughout the evening, and into the first hours of the new day, we all had our eyes on the television sets in the press office. There was nothing at that time like today’s social media – no Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and videos made with cell phones (no cell phones at that time, either!), iPads, etc., so we relied on our land line phones and Italian television.
It was an amazing evening. The hours dragged on and on, restaurants closed and yet no one had dinner. At best, some colleagues went to a few coffee bars before they closed to get a sandwich and some coffee for what we knew would be a long night. We all knew that no matter what we were writing, the final story line could not be written until we heard from Gemelli hospital if the pope had survived his surgery or if indeed a final line have been written in the life of Pope John Paul.
Given God’s great love – and surely his Mother Mary’s love as well – for this special man, given Pope John Paul’s belief in Divine Mercy and his unshakeable belief in Divine Providence, we all received the gift of a pope who survived and a long papacy, following this potentially fatal day. (vatican photos)
I got to bed in the wee small hours of the morning after dictating my story on the phone to the Register, based at the time in Los Angeles. I was exhausted when I went to bed and only slept a few hours because all of us were anxious to return to work the next morning and find out what had happened to the pope overnight.
You all know the rest of the story: Pope John Paul survived, had a long recovery period and eventually had other surgeries: There would be another 24 years of a fruitful pontificate by a travelling pope, a pope who wrote documents and poetry, a pope who influenced the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
As I write these words 39 years later, that Pope is now Saint John Paul II.
Today marks the 39th anniversary of the day Pope John Paul was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the start of a Wednesday general audience. In a separate column later today, I post my memories of that day. Stay tuned!
“PRAYER IS AN ‘I’ IN SEARCH OF A ‘YOU’”
In his second general audience catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis this morning said, “we now consider its essential characteristics. Prayer involves our entire being yearning for some ‘other’ beyond ourselves. Prayer is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some ‘other’. It is an ‘I’ in search of a ‘You’.”.
“Specifically,” said Francis, speaking from the library of the Apostolic Palace, “Christian prayer is born from the realization that the ‘other’ we are seeking has been revealed in the tender face of Jesus, who teaches us to call God ‘Father’, and who wants personally to enter into a relationship with us.”
The Holy Father explained that, “In his farewell discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus no longer calls his disciples servants but friends. When we commune with God in prayer, we need not be fearful, for he is a friend, a trusted ally. Whatever our situation, or however poorly we may think of ourselves, God is always faithful, and willing to embrace us in mercy.
Francis highlighted God’s love, “We see this unconditional love on Calvary, for the Lord never stops loving, even to the end. Let us seek to pray by entering into this mystery of God’s unending Covenant with us. This is the burning heart of every Christian prayer: entrusting ourselves to the loving and merciful arms of our heavenly Father.”
After the catechesis in Italian, monsignori from the Secretariat of State gave summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, a well as greetings from the Pope in those languages.
POPE ENCOURAGES DEVOTION TO OUR LADY OF FATIMA
During today’s weekly general audience, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray to Our Lady, reminding everyone that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (vaticannews)
“Today we celebrate the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Pope Francis in his greetings to Polish-speaking listeners at the weekly audience. “We turn our thoughts to the apparitions and its message transmitted throughout the world,” he added.
Pope Francis also recalled the attack on the life of Pope St. John Paul II in 1981. He pointed out that his predecessor experienced “the maternal intervention of the Holy Virgin” in sparing his life.
The Pope also said that Monday, May 18 marks the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth. He said that he will celebrate his morning Mass that day on the altar over the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Let us thank God for giving us this saintly Bishop of Rome,” he said, “and ask him to help us: that he might help this Church of Rome to convert and strive ahead.”
Pope Francis then went on to pray for peace in the world, the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and the spirit of penance and conversion for the world through the intercession of Our Lady.
The Holy Father invited the Italian-speaking faithful to have constant recourse to Our Lady’s help, so that everyone might persevere in the love of God and neighbor. He prayed especially for the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.
Invitation to pray the Rosary
In his greetings to Portuguese-speaking faithful tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis urged Catholics to try to live this month of May with a more intense and faithful daily prayer. He pointed out that the prayer of the Rosary is one of the desires repeatedly expressed by Our Lady at Fatima: “Under her protection, the pains and afflictions of life will be more bearable.”
Love of neighbor
Addressing German-speaking faithful, Pope Francis noted that the many examples of the love of God for us are a “strong invitation to love all the people we meet,” especially in this time of social-distancing due to Covid-19. He prayed that the Holy Spirit might fill us with charity and joy.
Our Lady of Fatima
Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three Portuguese children – Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, in a cove near Fatima, in Portugal. In those apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to pray the Rosary for the world and for the conversion of sinners.
Pope St. John Paul II visited Fatima three times – in 1982, 1991 and 2000. During his 2000 visit, he beatified Jacinta and Francisco. The liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated annually on May 13.
Today is International Nurses’ Day and Pope Francis today prayed especially for nurses during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, noting at the start of Mass that nursing is more than just a profession, it is a vocation. Especially in this time of pandemic, nursing is marked by heroism – even to the point of giving one’s life. He has had daily special intentions at Mass throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Calling nurses “among the saints next door,” he also had a special written message is a number of languages for this special day that also marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing who was born in Italy on this day in 1820. (Vatican news summary below): https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-05/full-text-of-pope-message-for-international-nurses-day.html
One biography notes: “Known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp,’ Florence Nightingale provided care and comfort for British soldiers during the Crimean War. She helped revolutionize medicine with her no-nonsense approach to hygiene, sanitation and patient care and turned nursing into a valued profession.”
One of my favorite people, St. Marianne Cope distinguished herself in her care for victims of Hansen’s disease or leprosy in Hawaii by her radical (at the time) hygiene and sanitation policies. A Franciscan nun, Mother Marianne and her sisters started two hospitals in Syracuse, New York.
In 1883, Marianne and six of her sisters answered a invitation by Hawaii’s king to come to the islands to minister to the lepers who lived there, They were in Honolulu until 1888 when they went to care for the lepers who lived in exile on the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Molok’ai. They brought all of their nursing skills to the island to assist Fr. Damien de Veuster (St. Damien) who had been there since 1873 and who would die in 1889. Mother Marianne promised her sisters that, if they adhered to their strict, successful sanitation practices, none of them would ever contract leprosy.
To this day the sisters still serve on Kalaupapa and none have ever contracted leprosy.
St. Damien’s feast day was Sunday, May 10.
In coronavirus news:
(ANSA) – Rome, May 12 – Premier Giuseppe Conte’s government has agreed to demands from Italy’s regions for an acceleration of phase two of the coronavirus emergency. As a result, regional governments will be able to give the OK for bars, restaurants, hairdressers, barbers and beauty parlours to open from Monday, May 18.
According to the government’s previous plan, these businesses were not to be allowed to open until June 1. But now it will be possible for them to open on Monday when Italy’s other shops are set to reopen too. he central government, however, will be able to intervene if there is a new upswing in COVID-19 contagions.
I read the requirements for restaurants to open: reservations highly suggested, meals could be served in turns like they have on cruise ships, absurd social distancing, no menus (menu must be on a bulletin board or a throwaway piece of paper or digital, such as an iPad that can be sanitized), the wearing of masks at all times except when eating (seems like you wear them when you are conversing, not eating), if there is a small group that wants to dine together, there must be proof they are all related!!! I hope I’m wrong on the last rule! Sounds like good friends or colleagues cannot dine together!
The restaurant unions (and surely restaurant owners!) are up in arms, noting that the distancing requirements (each customer should have free spacing of 3 feet in front, in back and at each side!) mean that businesses will lose about 60 or 70% of their clients. At that point, why stay open? Sounds like a prison with food to me!
POPE FRANCIS: NURSES ARE THE GUARDIANS OF LIFE
Pope Francis celebrates International Nurses Day on 12 May, noting that through the tragedy of coronavirus we have rediscovered their fundamental role, one that makes them “the guardians of life”.
By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis opened his Message for International Nurses Day by noting that due to the global health emergency in which we find ourselves, “we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives.”
Those who put others first
He said each day, as we face this critical time, we witness the courage and sacrifices made by healthcare workers and by “nurses in particular.” They dedicate themselves “to the point of putting their own health at risk,” he said, adding that, sadly, this has been demonstrated through the high number of healthcare workers who have died “as a result of the coronavirus.
“I pray for them,” said the Pope, “and for all the victims of this epidemic”. “The Lord knows each of them by name”.
Guardians of life
“Nurses have historically played a central role in health care”, said the Pope. He noted that this year, on this exact day, we face the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, “the pioneer of modern nursing.” He described nurses as “guardians and preservers of life” who never cease to offer “courage, hope and trust” as they administer necessary treatment.
“Dear nurses”, said Pope Francis, “moral responsibility is the hallmark of your professional service”. Nurses are tasked with “continuous listening”, as they take care of women and men, children and the elderly, “in every phase of their life, from birth to death”, said the Pope. Before each unique situation, nurses do not only follow a protocol, but a constant effort of “discernment and attention”.
Carrying out the mission of Jesus
Nurses are amongst the saints next door, said the Pope. “You are an image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness and who stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. Thank you for your service to humanity”, he added.
Addressing leaders of nations throughout the world, Pope Francis noted that in many countries the pandemic has also brought to light a number of “deficiencies” in the provision of healthcare. He asked that leaders “invest in healthcare as the primary common good by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person”.
He expressed the importance of enhancing nurses and midwives’ professionalism and involvement with the suitable “scientific, human, psychological and spiritual tools” necessary for their training, “so that they can carry out their service in full dignity”.
The role of the associations
The Pope noted that in this regard, associations of healthcare workers play an important role. “In addition to offering comprehensive training, they support their individual members, making them feel part of a larger body, never dismayed and alone as they face the ethical, economic and human challenges that their profession entails”
A special word to midwives
Addressing a “special word” to midwives, Pope Francis noted that their work is amongst the most notable professions, “for it is directly dedicated to the service of life and of motherhood”. Today, too, he added, “the Holy Father looks at you with gratitude”.
Finally, Pope Francis assured all nurses and midwives of his prayers for them, their families, and all those for whom they care. Imparting his Apostolic Blessing to each of them he concluded, saying, “may this annual celebration highlight the dignity of your work for the benefit of the health of society as a whole”.
ITALY IN THE CORONAVIRUS ERA: TRAVEL, THE MAFIA, THE OLYMPICS, THE PANTHEON, AND MORE….
Inside Italy in the coronavirus era as reported by Italian news agency ANSA:
(ANSA) – Rome, May 11 – Rome got a scary start today when a 3.3-magnitude earthquake shook the capital at 5:03 am, waking up many residents. The epicentre of the quake was 11 kilometres from the capital, near to the town of Fonte Nuova, at a depth of 10 kilometres. There have been no reports so far of injuries or major damage
(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Italy’s mafias will invest in tourism and restaurants hit by the coronavirus emergency, the government’s COVID-19 criminal infiltration monitoring body said Friday. The tourism and catering sectors will have a “lack of liquidity that will expose them to loan sharking” with the risk of the mafia taking over the activities with the aim of laundering money, the report said.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – The government is thinking of setting up a fund for the hotel sector, one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus emergency and one of those most at risk of mafia infiltration, sources said Friday. The idea is to set up a fund “from which hotel owners can quickly obtain liquidity after partially ceding ownership, temporarily and at face value, with the prospect of being able to repay the funding obtained in an easier timeframe”, the sources said.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – Italians put on an average two kilos of weight during the 55-day coronavirus lockdown, farm group Coldiretti said Tuesday. Staying at home and unable to take their usual vigorous exercise, coupled with a boom in comfort foods filled with sugar, carbohydrates and fat, has bloated the average Italian, Coldiretti said. The amount of food on Italian tables rose by 18% during the lockdown, it said.
Italians have now started trying to shed that excess baggage after they have been allowed to jog, walk and take personal exercise in parks and along seafronts in phase two of the coronavirus emergency. Some 47% of Italians have said losing weight is one of their priority goals, according to the Ixè polling firm that says Italians have turned to diets and exercise to get back in shape.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Friday proposed giving a posthumous gold medal for civic valour to medical staff, priests and others who have died in the coronavirus emergency. “We must honour those who, while fighting against the virus, gave their lives to save those of so many other Italians, “Di Maio said. “A gold medal for civic valour awarded to these angels. Doctors, nurses, priests and many others. The country owes it to them. Let’s not give up”.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 7 – Italy is still in the “epidemic phase” of COVID-19, Higher Health Institute (ISS) chief Silvio Brusaferro told the Lower House’s social affairs committee on Thursday. “The fact that the curve for infections is dropping is positive and this is a result of the measures taken and the behaviour of Italians,” he said. “However, this does not change the fact that we have new cases and that the virus is still circulating in the country and thus must lead us to take the necessary measures” for containment.
He said the data available shows that the level of immunity to COVID-19 is still very low in Italy. Though this varies between the different areas of the country, “at an overall level we are very far from the 70% necessary for the herd immunity threshold”, he said. Brusaferro added that the “aim is to contain the virus. We cannot yet imagine eradication of the virus, which will only be possible with a vaccine”.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 6 – The Senate gave definitive approval Wednesday to a decree on holding the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina. The decree was passed by 225 vote to nil with one abstention. The Games are scheduled to take place from 6 to 22 February 2026 in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. This will be the fourth Olympic Games hosted in Italy and the first hosted in Milan. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the 70th anniversary of the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the 80th anniversary of the Italian Republic. It will be the first Olympic Games featuring two host cities.
(ANSA) – Rome, May 5 – A sinkhole that opened up in front of the Pantheon in Rome last week has uncovered ancient Roman paving stones, sources said Tuesday. The seven travertine blocks, which have been found about two and a half metres below today’s cobblestones, were part of the original paving when the Pantheon was built by Emperor Augustus’s friend Marcus Agrippa in 27-25 BC, Rome special superintendent Daniela Porro said. “This is further evidence of Rome’s inestimable archaeological riches,” she said. The paving was first discovered during the laying of service lines in the 1990s.
More travel news:
A fascinating interview with Italian archaeologist Alfonsina Russo, director of the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo which, in addition to the Colosseum, includes the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and the Domus Aurea. A really good read, thanks to Wanted in Rome: https://www.wantedinrome.com/news/the-colosseum-looks-to-the-post-covid-19-era.html
Fiumicino Airport debus portable thermoscanner to test passengers and staff:
Rome’s Fiumicino international airport has become the first airport in Europe to introduce a portable thermoscanner, known as the Smart Helmet, to screen passengers and staff for possible symptoms of covid-19. The airport says that the high-tech helmets, worn by authorised airport officials, are capable of checking body temperatures, at a distance. Fiumicino, also known as Leonardo da Vinci airport, is currently in possession of three of these helmets that will be used by staff walking around the terminals.
The airport says that if the technology detects that a person has a high temperature, they will be informed immediately and invited to undergo a medical check. The helmet is part of a co-ordinated effort by the airport to increase its screening measures as Italy prepares to enter “Phase Two” of the coronavirus emergency. The airport says it has re-organised its spaces in line with social distancing measures and has made hand sanitiser and masks available. Fiumicino will have a total of 90 thermal scanners in operation to “guarantee maximum safety conditions and prevent the spread of infections.”
Important information in English for those who need to travel to, or through, Italy under the coronavirus travel restrictions:
Italy’s ministry for foreign affairs outlines the rules, requirements and various scenarios in which you can travel to Italy. The ministry provides detailed information in English on documents required, self-isolation and rules after arriving at an airport, ferry port or railway station in Italy. The ministry provides answers to a series of questions including: * I’m an Italian expat or a foreign national resident in Italy, may I return to Italy? * I live abroad and need to transit through Italy on my way to the country where I live. What must I do? * I’m a foreign national in Italy, may I return to my home country?
For full details, in English, see Ministero degli Affari Esteri website.
As Pope Francis noted at the Wednesday general audience, “Friday, May 8 the intense prayer of the ‘Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary’ will rise at the Shrine of Pompeii. I urge everyone to join spiritually in this popular act of faith and devotion, so that through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, the Lord may grant mercy and peace to the Church and to the whole world.” Here is a link from the shrine website to the “supplica” in English: http://www.santuario.it/images/stories/supplica/SupplicaInglese.pdf
VATICAN INSIDER TOURS ST. MARY MAJOR BASILICA
As you know, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Italian restrictions for movement in one’s neighborhood or town, I have been unable for the past two months to go out and interview people for what is normally the interview segment. In that period, I’ve offered a number of specials until I can resume in person interviews.
This weekend we will visit St. Mary Major Basilica, a church that, as you know, Pope Francis visits often to pray before the image of Mary so loved by Romans called Salus populi romani – salvation of the Roman people.
Be a tourist once again! Come back to Rome! Enjoy the visit!
Here are some photos I took one August 5, the day of the famous snowfall on Rome’s Esquiline Hill that marked the founding of this basilica dedicated to Mary. Listen to the Special to learn the whole story!
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PAPAL PRAYER INTENTIONS AT DAILY MASS
Pope Francis continues saying daily Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence, Masses that have been televised and online for months now. He has a special prayer intention every day and announces it at the start of Mass.
On Sunday, May 3, Good Shepherd Sunday, the Pope prayed for doctors and priests, likening them to the Good Shepherd laying down their lives serving the flock.
Monday, May 4, he prayed for families closed up in their homes because of the pandemic, acknowledging that they are trying to do many things they have never done before. He mentioned the reality of domestic violence, and said: “Let us pray for families, that they might persevere in peace with creativity and patience during this quarantine.”
Tuesday, May 5, Francis prayed for those who have died because of the pandemic. “They have died alone, without the caresses of their loved ones. So many did not even have a funeral. May the Lord welcome them in His glory.”
Wednesday, May 6, the Holy Father prayed for the men and women who work in the media: “In this time of pandemic they risk a lot and work a lot. May the Lord help them to always transmit the truth.”
Thursday, May 7, Pope Francis prayed for artists: “I would like to ask the Lord to bless them because through artists we understand beauty, and without beauty we cannot understand the Gospel.”
Friday, May 8, “Today is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day,” said the Pope. “Let us pray for the people who work in these meritorious institutions. May the Lord bless their work that does so much good.”
MASSES TO RESUME IN ITALY ON MAY 18
(CNA) – Dioceses in Italy can resume the celebration of public Masses beginning Monday, May 18, under conditions issued Thursday by the head of Italy’s bishops and by government officials.
The protocol for Mass and other liturgical celebrations states that churches must limit the number of people present – ensuring a one-meter (three feet) distance – and congregants must wear face masks. The church must also be cleaned and disinfected between celebrations.
For the distribution of the Eucharist, priests and other ministers of Holy Communion are asked to wear gloves and masks covering both the nose and mouth and to avoid contact with communicants’ hands.
The Diocese of Rome suspended public Masses March 8 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Several dioceses in hard-hit northern Italy, including Milan and Venice, had suspended public liturgies as early as the last week of February.
All public religious celebrations, including baptisms, funerals, and weddings, were prohibited during the Italian government’s lockdown, which went into effect March 9.
Funerals were allowed again beginning May 4. Public baptisms and weddings may now also resume in Italy starting May 18.
The protocol issued May 7 lays out the genera l directions for complying with health measures, such as the indication of a maximum capacity in a church based on maintaining at least one-meter distance between people.
Access to the church must be regulated to control the number present, it says, and the number of Masses can be increased to ensure social distancing.
The church should be cleaned and disinfected after every celebration and the use of worship aids such as hymnals is discouraged.
Church doors should be propped open before and after Mass to aid traffic flow and hand sanitizer must be available at entrances.
Among other suggestions, the Sign of Peace should be omitted, and holy water fonts kept empty, the protocol states.
The protocol was signed by Italian bishops’ conference president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Prime Minister and President of the Council Giuseppe Conte, and the Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese.
A note says the protocol was prepared by the Italian bishops’ conference and examined and approved by the government’s Technical-Scientific Committee for COVID-19.
April 26 Italy’s bishops had criticized Conte for failing to lift the ban on public Masses.
In a statement, the bishops’ conference denounced Conte’s decree on “phase 2” of Italy’s coronavirus restrictions, which it said, “arbitrarily excludes the possibility of celebrating Mass with the people.”
The prime minister’s office responded later the same night indicating that a protocol would be studied to allow “the faithful to participate in liturgical celebrations as soon as possible in conditions of maximum security.”
The Italian bishops issued a statement May 7 stating that the protocol for restarting public Masses “concludes a path that has seen collaboration between the Italian Episcopal Conference, the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior.”
As I write this column, I am also following online the Mass for the Swiss Guards who, normally on May 6 each year, hold the moving swearing-in ceremony for new Swiss Guards. If you speak some Italian (and a bit of French and German), you might be interested in watching this, whenever you have time (https://www.guardiasvizzera.ch/paepstliche-schweizergarde/it/chi-siamo/). After Mass there will be an awards ceremony in another part of Vatican City, The actual swearing-in ceremony has been postponed and will take place, hopefully with family and friends, on October 4, 2020.
POPE FRANCIS: PRAYER IS THE BREATH OF FAITH
At today’s general audience, held in the library of the Apostolic Palace, as has become traditional during these months of the coronavirus pandemic with strict social distancing rules in place in Italy and Vatican City, Pope Francis began a new series of catecheses on the them of prayer.
As is customary, multi-lingual monsignori from the Secretariat of State were present and gave summaries of the papal catechesis in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish.
“Today we begin a new series of catechesis on prayer,” stated Pope Francis. “Prayer is the breath of faith, a cry arising from the hearts of those who trust in God. We see this in the story of Bartimaeus, the beggar from Jericho. Though blind, he is aware that Jesus is approaching, and perseveres in calling out: ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
“By using the phrase ‘Son of David’,” explained the Pope, “Bartimaeus makes a profession of faith in Jesus the Messiah. In response the Lord invites Bartimaeus to express his desire, which is to be able to see again. Christ then tells him: ‘Go; your faith has saved you’. This indicates that faith is a cry for salvation attracting God’s mercy and power.”
The Holy Father noted that, “It is not only Christians who pray but all men and women who search for meaning on their earthly journey. As we continue on our pilgrimage of faith, may we, like Bartimaeus, always persevere in prayer, especially in our darkest moments, and ask the Lord with confidence: ‘Jesus have mercy on me. Jesus, have mercy on us!’”
After the catechesis, in greetings for Italian-speaking faithful tuning in to the online general audience, Pope Francis pointed out that “the day after tomorrow, Friday, May 8 the intense prayer of the ‘Supplication to Our Lady of the Rosary’ will rise at the Shrine of Pompeii. I urge everyone to join spiritually in this popular act of faith and devotion, so that through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, the Lord may grant mercy and peace to the Church and to the whole world.”
POPE APPEALS FOR END TO EXPLOITATION OF FARM WORKERS
Following the general audience catechesis on prayer and summaries in various languages, Pope Francis made the following appeal: “On May 1st, I received several messages about the world of work and its problems. I was particularly struck by that of the farm workers, among them many migrants, who work in the Italian countryside. Unfortunately, many are very harshly exploited. It is true that the current crisis affects everyone, but people’s dignity must always be respected. That is why I add my voice to the appeal of these workers and of all exploited workers. May the crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and the dignity of work the centre of our concern.”
MAY 6 SWEARING-IN CEREMONY OF NEW SWISS GUARDS POSTPONED
The Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony for new guards that traditionally takes place on May 6 to commemorate the 147 Swiss Guards who died during the May 6, 1527 Sack of Rome as they were defending Pope Clement VII, has been moved to October 4, 2020 because of the covid pandemic.
However, tomorrow, May 6, there will be Mass in the church of Santa Maria in Campo Santo in the Vatican’s Teutonic cemetery and a brief ceremony to commemorate the 1527 event. Normally family members and friends who are in Rome for the swearing-in ceremony also attend these events but tomorrow’s commemoration will have a restricted number of people present, respecting the rules of hygiene and safety that apply in the Vatican City State.
Following Mass, the guards present will be decorated with honors for their long and faithful service to the Holy See, according to a Swiss Guard press release.
Mass will start at 5 pm Rome time, followed by the commemorative ceremony at 6 pm in the Piazzale dei Protomartiri Romani of the Swiss Guard barracks.
Everything will be broadcast via live stream on the guards’ website www.guardiasvizzera.ch
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