VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis offered his early morning Mass for vulnerable people and health care workers who live in fear that they or their loved ones may fall ill to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

“In these days of so much suffering, there is so much fear,” the pope said March 26 at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed from the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis spoke specifically of “the fear of the elderly who are alone in retirement homes or in hospitals or in their own homes and do not know what could happen; the fear of workers without a steady job who think about how they will feed their children and see hunger coming; the fear of many social servants who in these moments help society move forward and could get sick.”

But he also acknowledged “the fear — the fears — of each one of us,” and prayed that God “would help us to have trust and to tolerate and overcome fear.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading from the Book of Exodus, which recounts how the Israelites made a golden calf and began to worship it.

“It was a true apostasy!” the pope explained. “From the living God to idolatry; they did not have the patience to wait for Moses to come back. They wanted something new, they wanted something, a liturgical spectacle.”

The pope said the sin of the Israelites revealed the “idolatrous nostalgia” for the certainties they had even as slaves in Egypt.

“This nostalgia is a disease, even for us. One begins to walk with the enthusiasm of being free, but then the complaints begin,” he said. “Idolatry is always selective; it makes you think about the good things it gives you but doesn’t make you see the bad things. In this case, they thought about how they were at their table, with such good meals they liked so much, but they forgot that this was the table of slavery.”

Idolatry, he continued, also caused the Israelites to lose everything, including the gold and silver they had received from Egypt after their liberation.

“This also happens to us,” the pope said. “When we have attitudes that lead us to idolatry, we are attached to things that alienate us from God so we make another god and we make it with the gifts God has given us; with intelligence, with will, with love, with the heart. Those are the gifts of the Lord we use to do idolatry.”

Pope Francis invited Christians to ask themselves what their idols are and warned that idolatry can “lead to a mistaken religiosity,” which can “change the celebration of a sacrament into a worldly feast.”

“Take for example a wedding celebration,” he said. “You don’t know whether it’s sacrament where the newlyweds give each other everything and love each other in front of God and promise to be faithful before God and receive the grace of God, or if it’s a fashion show with the way this one or that one is dressed. It is worldliness, it is idolatry.”

The pope prayed that at the end of our lives, God would not be able to say, “You have perverted yourself. You have strayed from the path I had indicated. You have prostrated yourself before an idol.”

 

Pope Francis is seen in a window greeting a few nuns standing in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22, 2020, after reciting his weekly Angelus prayer from the library of the Apostolic Palace. The pope announced he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27 in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. (CNS photo/Alberto Lingria, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27.

The formal blessing — usually given only immediately after a new pope’s election and on Christmas and Easter — carries with it a plenary indulgence for all who follow by television, internet or radio, are sorry for their sins, recite a few prescribed prayers and promise to go to confession and to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.

After reciting the Angelus prayer March 22 from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis announced his plans for the special blessing, which, he said, would be given in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus.

With the public joining him only by television, internet or radio, “we will listen to the word of God, raise our prayer (and) adore the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “At the end, I will give the benediction ‘urbi et orbi,’ to which will be connected the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence.”

An indulgence is an ancient practice of prayer and penance for the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Catholic teaching, a person can draw on the merits of Jesus and the saints to claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died.

In addition to announcing the special blessing, Pope Francis said that at a time “when humanity trembles” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was asking Christians of every denomination to join together at noon March 25 to recite the Lord’s Prayer. The Catholic Church and many others mark March 25 as the feast of the Annunciation.

“To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness,” he said. “Let’s stay united. Let us make those who are alone and tested feel our closeness,” as well as doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and volunteers.

Pope Francis also expressed concern for “authorities who have to take strong measures for our good” and the police and soldiers maintaining public order and enforcing the lockdown.

 

A Haitian woman does laundry Sept. 2, 2019, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. (CNS photo/Dante Carrer, Reuters)

 

As Hurricane Dorian continues to impact the southern United States, you may have already seen some of the heartbreaking images from the Bahamas where the Category 5 storm made landfall on September 1, bringing record wind, rain and storm surges.

We pray for all our Bahamian brothers and sisters who have been affected by Hurricane Dorian. We ask Our Lord to be with the responders and rescue crews and that all those in harm’s way be given the help they need.

 

 

If you are looking for ways to help, donations are being accepted by Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

People gather outside the Marsh Harbour Medical Clinic Sept. 4, 2019, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. (CNS photo/Dante Carrer, Reuters)

Supporting these organizations will help people through the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and will continue to help them as they work through the long process of recovery.

Online donations for Catholic Relief Services can be made at https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and Catholic Charities USA at https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm

 

 

 

Bishops gathered for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The Diocese of Scranton is committed to protecting its young people and ensuring that the local Church of Scranton continues to address issues of child sexual abuse with vigilance and fidelity.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera attended the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore from June 11-13, 2019 and voted in favor of the four new policies/procedures that were proposed during the meeting.

During that meeting, the USCCB overwhelming voted to approve proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. The bishops also re-committed themselves to involving and utilizing lay professional experts, which is already the practice of the Diocese of Scranton.

The bishops approved four important measures during their assembly. They include:

  • Voting to implement the document “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) which was issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.
  • Approving the document “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments,” in which bishops affirmed the commitments they made at ordination, including the commitment to respond directly and appropriately to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
  • Voting for a protocol regarding non-penal restrictions on bishops which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed “due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act.”
  • Establishing an independent third-party reporting system to accept abuse allegations confidentially, by phone or online. A more detailed proposal for the third-party reporting system, including financial and structural elements, is in the planning process. The reporting system would begin no later than May 31, 2020 but bishops are hoping it can be available sooner. It’s important to note that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse should not wait for the national reporting system to be in place. Survivors can contact local civil authorities to file a report as soon as possible and may also report to Church authorities by existing means, including contacting Victim Asisstance Coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska at (570) 862-7551 or Vicar General Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney at (570) 207-2269.

These efforts are the latest in a series of steps the Diocese of Scranton and the Church has taken to respond to the sin of sexual abuse.

 

Flames and smoke billow from the Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out in Paris April 15, 2019. Officials said the cause was not clear, but that the fire could be linked to renovation work. (CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters)

“The tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral strikes the hearts of not only the worldwide Catholic community, but of all people of faith and good will, as this treasured house of worship that has seemed so timeless in its enduring presence is changed forever.

I was privileged to visit Notre Dame Cathedral with my mother and father in 1993 and again with several priests of the Diocese of Scranton in 1997.  The loss of this grand and noble sacred place in so many respects is a reminder of just how important our own parish churches are to us as we journey through life.

For as devastating as this loss may appear to be, as Christians we profess that there is always hope through our faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – the same faith that gave the great Notre Dame Cathedral its soul and life!

Please join me in praying for the protection of the firefighters and first responders in Paris who are working to battle the fire. Our prayers also go out to the Church and our brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Paris.”

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.