VATICAN CITY — For the first time in the Church’s history, Catholics worldwide will be simultaneously participating in an hour of Eucharistic adoration on Sunday, led by Pope Francis.
The Holy Hour, to be broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, will take place on June 2 from 5-6pm local time. Its theme, “One Lord, One Faith,” was chosen to testify to the deep unity that characterizes it, the Vatican says.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, told reporters May 28 that there had been an “incredible response” to the initiative, “going beyond the cathedrals and involving episcopal conferences, parishes, lay associations and religious congregations, especially cloistered ones.”
He was unable to give exact numbers of those who will participate, but he said “certainly thousands and thousands” are expected. Countries with a large number of parishes or dioceses participating include the United States (243), India (163), Brazil (56) and Italy (50).
From the Cook Islands, Chile and Burkina Faso to Taiwan, Iraq and Bangladesh, hundreds of dioceses will be “synchronized with St. Peter’s and will pray for the intentions proposed by the Pope,” Archbishop Fisichella said.
The first papal intention is: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”
Pope Francis’ second intention is: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church, so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”
The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has advised that because of normal Sunday Mass schedules, it may be challenging to schedule such a gathering simultaneously in the various time zones of the United States. The Rome time translates to 11am Eastern, 10am Central, 9am Mountain, 8am Pacific, 7am in Alaska and 5am in Hawaii.
The bishops recommend keeping the spirit of the gathering by holding the Holy Hour “at a more convenient time on that day, such as on Sunday afternoon following the last Mass of the day.”
A statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says such a celebration “could include a traditional Eucharistic procession,” and it would also be appropriate “to mark the celebration of regularly scheduled Masses at that particular hour (11am Eastern) with special solemnity,and to note the unity of prayer with the Holy Father at that time through the homily and Prayer of the Faithful.”
Archbishop Fisichella said parishes such as Samoa and Honolulu will nonetheless be united in prayer, even though, for them, it will in the early-morning hours. Others who have experienced hardship, such as those in Carpi, Italy, which suffered a severe earthquake a year ago, will take part, using a local church instead of its cathedral, which remains damaged.
Villagers in Papua New Guinea will also be doing the same, despite similar hardships: A local bishop wrote to Archbishop Fisichella telling him that it is the rainy season, and despite having no electricity and coping with flooding for the past four days, they will be praying with the rest of the world’s Catholics.
In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Fisichella said that the strong response to the event did not surprise him, because he has seen “an increasing number of people engaged in adoration” in recent years.
Evangelium Vitae Conference
During the press conference, the Italian archbishop also shared details of a "Day Celebrating Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)" on June 15-16 in Rome. It’s an opportunity for the faithful from around the world to gather with the Holy Father in a communal witness to the sacred value of all life as part of the Year of Faith.
Pope Francis will preside at Sunday Mass at 10:30am with the entire “people of life,” during which he will show his care for them, as well as to all the sick who will be present at the celebration.
Like the other events, it will follow the traditional pattern of the Year of Faith: “Pilgrimages to St. Peter’s tomb will take place on Saturday afternoon, from 2-5pm,” Archbishop Fisichella said. He also said confession and Eucharistic adoration will be available, together with catechesis for the various language groups in several churches around Rome on Saturday morning.
Also on June 15, starting at 8:30pm, a silent, candlelight procession will be held along Via Della Conciliazione, in order to draw attention to the inviolable value of human life. It will conclude in St. Peter’s Square, where several testimonials will be given.
English-speaking participants will receive catechesis from Cardinal Raymond Burke at the Pontifical Urban College and attend a panel discussion with professor Francis Beckwith of Baylor University and Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute.
Families, representatives from bishops’ conferences and members of ecclesial movements will be among those taking part, as well as “many people interested in the promotion and defense of life who aren’t affiliated with a particular association or religion.”
Speaking to the Register May 28, Archbishop Fisichella said he hoped the event would show the world “there’s a clear and total engagement of the Catholic Church — and not only the Church — on engagement in the promotion, first of all, and the defense of human life.”
Asked if the gathering might also produce some definitive statements, such as withholding the Eucharist from Catholic politicians who advocate abortion-rights legislation, he said the teaching of the Church on the issue is already “very clear.”
“We need to just recall the encyclical of John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, and also the text on the engagement of Catholic politicians in politics written by Cardinal Ratzinger,” Archbishop Fisichella said.
“We should be able to distinguish between the different traditions and cultures, but I wouldn’t say there’s not a clear voice on this issue,” he added. “On the contrary, if we take these texts I mentioned, you cannot expect more than what was written before.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.