Around the traps: News in Brief

Pope makes donation to fund scholarships in Lebanon

VATICAN (CNS): Pope Francis donated US$200,000 ($1.5 million) to fund educational scholarships in Lebanon, which is facing a devastating economic crisis compounded by the Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. In a statement released by the Holy See Press Office on May 14, the Vatican said the donation, which will support 400 scholarships in the country, was an expression of the pope’s “fatherly concern,” especially toward young Lebanese men and women “who see their present as arduous and their future as uncertain.”

The statement said, “In this context, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that the sons and daughters of the Lebanese people have access to education which, especially in smaller areas, has always been guaranteed by ecclesiastical institutions.” 

The pandemic has only worsened the political and economic crisis the country has faced in recent months. According to statistics published on April 21 by the World Bank, the current crisis will place 45 per cent of the Lebanese population in poverty and 22 per cent in extreme poverty.

Work begins on sanitising Rome’s churches

ROME (CNS): The city of Rome called on the Italian Army and the city’s sanitation department to sanitise all of Rome’s parish churches in preparation for the resumption of public liturgies May 18, following a request from the Vicariate of Rome.

The army has 80 teams of hazardous-material specialists active throughout Italy decontaminating and sanitising needed areas, reported SIR, the news agency of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Nine teams will be dedicated to decontaminating all 337 of Rome’s parish churches.

The army is disinfecting the outside area of each church and place of worship, while the parish priest will have to request and indicate which areas inside the church they have permission to decontaminate, Brigadier General Giovanni Di Blasi told La Repubblica on May 13.

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“It is a wonderful example of institutional cooperation for the sake of getting the city back up and running and for the sake of all citizens,” said Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, who attended the cleaning of the first church, St. John Bosco, in the southeast of the city.

The citywide cleaning came after the Italian bishops and government agreed on May 7 on a protocol to allow the public to be present for liturgical celebrations starting May 18.

The protocol specifies the guidelines each church and the faithful have to follow to help safeguard public health. The restrictions include wearing facial masks inside the church, social distancing and asking people to not go if they are showing flu-like symptoms or know they have been in contact with someone who has recently tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“All of us—priests, especially—will do everything to guarantee respect for the rules, to guarantee social distancing, safety measures, so that when celebrations begin, they can be done in an orderly fashion,” Auxiliary Bishop Gianpiero Palmieri of Rome told La Repubblica.

Australian bishops entrust nation to Mary during pandemic

CANBERRA (CNS): Australia’s Catholic bishops will entrust the country to the care of Mary, Help of Christians, on her feast day, May 24. They approved the plan during their plenary meeting in early May, conducted using videoconferencing technology.

Mary, Help of Christians has been the official patron of Australia since 1844. This year, her feast coincides with the Feast of the Ascension, so the bishops agreed the entrustment could also take place on May 25.

On March 11, Pope Francis entrusted the world to Mary during the Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. On Easter, April 12, the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean entrusted their nations to Our Lady of Guadalupe. On May 1, the bishops in the United States and Canada reconsecrated their nations to Mary. Other countries throughout the world did the same.

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In a message issued on May 14 as “a word of encouragement to the Catholic people of Australia,” the bishops noted that the country “has certainly suffered because of the pandemic, but not as grievously as some other countries.”

By May 19, Australia had nearly 7,054 confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 100 deaths.

The bishops congratulated public health and government authorities for their work and noted that for many, lack of public Masses had been “a real deprivation.”

They wrote, “The bishops understand not only your anxiety about the virus and shutdown, but more especially your deep desire to return to the sacraments and to resume public worship.” 

The bishops urged the faithful to continue to adhere to government and medical advice.

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