– Tej Francis


With no Ash Wednesday Masses, bishops in northern Italy share prayers

People wearing protective masks take pictures near Milan’s famed cathedral, commonly referred to as the “Duomo,” closed by authorities due to a coronavirus outbreak Feb. 26, 2020. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters) See CORONAVIRUS-ASH-WEDNESDAY Feb. 26, 2020.

(CNS) While Ash Wednesday Masses were canceled in several northern Italian dioceses to prevent the spread of the corona virus, bishops composed special prayers for their people and offered alternative ways to begin the celebration of Lent.

Father Roberto Parisini, secretary general of the chancery of the Archdiocese of Bologna, issued a notice Feb. 25 telling pastors that although they should not celebrate public Masses, “nothing prohibits having a table in the church with blessed ashes and distributing them to individuals or small groups who request them.”

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna invited Catholics in the archdiocese to watch on television or by internet the prayer service he would celebrate “behind closed doors” at 9 p.m. Feb. 26, Ash Wednesday.

The text of the prayer service was posted online and began: “Lord Jesus, you promised always, until the end of the world, to be in our midst when we gather in your name. Even if today we cannot gather with our brothers and sisters for the celebration, we want to enter into the solemn Lenten season together with the whole church.”

Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice, where public celebrations of Mass have been suspended at least until midnight March 1, issued a pastoral letter on Ash Wednesday.

  “For believers nothing is an accident, and everything is an occasion for grace, a favorable time to grow both in our humanity and as disciples,” Archbishop Moraglia wrote.


Archbishop Naumann calls Senate rejection of pro-life bills ‘appalling’

(Catholic News Service) By blocking two pro-life bills from going to the floor of the U.S. Senate for a vote, senators “failed to advance two critical human rights reforms that most Americans strongly support,” the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee said late Feb. 25.

Earlier that day, the Senate voted on motions to advance the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S. 3275, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, S. 311, sponsored Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska.

“It is appalling that even one senator, let alone more than 40, voted to continue the brutal dismemberment of nearly full-grown infants, and voted against protecting babies who survive abortion,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Our nation is better than this, and the majority of Americans who support these bills must make their voices heard,” he added in his statement.

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama

Post-hurricane partnership is rejuvenating homes, communities in Bahamas

(Catholic News Service) In response to the most damaging storm in the modern history of the Bahamas, a regional office of Caritas International has moved forward in its two-year commitment to promote housing refurbishment and mental wellness in the islands.

Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, which first made landfall Sept. 1, 2019, and which stalled over the region for several days, resulted in more than 70 deaths, severe structural damage and the displacement of thousands of residents across the northern Bahamas.

Although Catholic Relief Services is not technically incorporated in the Bahamas, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency has set up a temporary presence under the auspices of Caritas Antilles and in cooperation with the Nassau Archdiocese.

“The community in Grand Bahama has really come together in the rebuilding efforts and some of the local contractors have been engaged to do the work,” said Nassau Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder, who led a delegation of Archdiocese of Miami Catholic Charities senior staff on a post-hurricane tour of key locations Feb. 19-21.

Hurricane Dorian displaced an estimated 70,000 people throughout the Bahamas, leaving severe damage or total destruction to more than 13,000 homes, or some 45% of all homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco.

The Caritas efforts are part of a wider hurricane recovery project that the Archdiocese of Nassau has been engaged in with its parishes, schools and communities, and with material and financial assistance from around the world, including some $700,000 collected in South Florida parishes last year.