Priests to celebrate Masses outdoors after massive earthquake in Italy

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) — Priests in central Italy were instructed
to celebrate Mass outdoors following another devastating earthquake that rocked
the region and brought one its most spiritually and historically significant
churches tumbling down.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve advised priests to not celebrate Mass
indoors over the next several days, including Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, which is also
a national holiday in Italy.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Norcia in the early
morning Oct. 30 and
reduced the Basilica of St. Benedict to rubble.

the noonday Angelus Oct. 30, Pope Francis prayed for the “the wounded and the families that have suffered major
damage as well as for the personnel involved in rescue efforts and in aiding
the victims.  

“May the Risen Lord give them strength and Our Lady
watch over them,” the pope said.

The Benedictine monks of Norcia assisted in relief
efforts as well as helping to guide anxious residents to the town’s main square and lead them in prayer.

“After offering spiritual support
to the people in town following this morning’s intense earthquake, the entire
monastic community is together again at our mountain monastery which overlooks
a now fractured Norcia,” the monks said in a message posted on their blog.

Following the destruction of the
basilica built atop the birthplace of their founder, the Benedictine monks said they hoped the image
of the destroyed church may “serve to illustrate the power of this
earthquake and the urgency we monks feel to seek out those who need the
Sacraments on this difficult day for Italy.”

While there were no deaths and some 20 reported injuries, it was the strongest quake in
Italy since 1980 when a 6.9 earthquake struck the southern region of Campania.

The quake was felt along much of the Italian peninsula including 100
miles away in Rome, forcing city officials to close subways and several churches
in order to assess any damage. Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi also ordered schools
to be closed the following day while the safety of the buildings was checked.

Vatican firefighters assessed potential damage to the
four major papal basilicas in Rome, which were later reported to be safe and
open to the public.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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