ROME — 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
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.
At 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