“The situation in the Church at the moment is one of chaos, and so we’re here because we want to pray for the Pope, for the Church, and for the Synod Fathers attending the Amazon Synod that’s just beginning,” said Dario Maria.
A 40-year old Rome citizen, Maria was one of about 500 faithful who had gathered in a piazza in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday under the banner of “Let’s Pray for the Church!”
For a couple of hours, laity from different parts of Italy along with priests and religious recited the Rosary and other prayers in light of the sins, scandals, and divisions currently emanating from within the Church.
In particular they had gathered to pray for 10 particular intentions, such as that those involved clerical abuse scandals not be promoted but removed from leadership positions; that the deposit of faith “not be adulterated”; and that the Church be courageous in preaching the Gospel.
Other prayers included a plea to teach the “non-negotiable principles,” that love for Creation not be confused with paganism or pantheism, and that defense of identity have “nothing to do with nationalism or other aberrations.”
The participants said the prayer vigil was not a march or movement against any one person, and especially not the Holy Father, but rather driven by the challenges facing the Church that to many seem impossible to humanly resolve.
“The Church is in a deep crisis and at this time no human effort is likely to rescue her, so prayer is the only option, for heavenly intervention,” said Boris, a Swiss citizen who had traveled to Rome especially for the prayer vigil.
“The biggest challenges are the crisis of doctrine and the crisis of the priesthood,” he added. “They don’t know any more what their vocation is, and it’s a crisis in discipline.”
Giulia from Rome said “priests are suffering greatly — they won’t say it but they’re in a kind of catacomb, they can’t come out, we must help them.”
Gianfranco Amato, president of Jurists for Life, an Italian group of lawyers defending life, family and religious freedom, said the event was important because of the time we are living in.
Echoing words of the late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra and others, he said this is the “final time of battle between Satan and God — you can feel it, people can feel it, so the most important thing we can do is pray.”
“It doesn’t depend on us,” he continued, “the result of this battle is in the hands of God, and we would be really crazy if we think the result depends on us. The only thing we can do at this moment is to pray, and it’s very important, and very symbolic to pray here, in the center of Christianity, close to the tomb of Peter.
“The only thing we can do is ask Him to protect His Church, the Church which is now trembling.”
Amato said he was not so concerned about the Pan-Amazon Synod, whose working document has been criticized as heretical, but rather the push by German bishops for a binding synodal path which would contain moral teaching at odds with the Church’s magisterium.
“It’s a false council that’s very, very dangerous because where would it stop?” Amato said. “Why couldn’t the Swedes, Canadians or Australians follow suit? There could be a domino effect, the Church could implode.
“I don’t know why they don’t stop it, even though the Holy See has told them to.”
Esther Maria Ledda from Rome said, “We are Catholics, Roman Catholics, Roman papists, we are cum Petro et sub Petro [with Peter and under Peter].” But, she said, “We’re looking to see how to resolve this crisis, these problems, and we say honestly with a filial love.”
Ledda added, “As baptised and confirmed children of God, we must, and have the right to, defend the true faith.”
Dario Maria said the vigil was a “beautiful occasion,” as there was “no anger or protest.”
But he noted that in Italy, as in much of the rest of the world, “we have a crisis of vocations, empty churches.” According to him, what will bring a “new spring” to the Church is principally the Rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “We can’t have bishops who make excuses for abortion, justify euthanasia — this is the confusion in the Church,” he said.
The Church “must recover strength of mind, the language of the saints, the language of the fathers of the Church, and this will refill the churches, because strong language is the language of Jesus, because Jesus always attracts by the Cross.”
He said the crisis in the Church was due to a crisis of faith that was owed itself to people feeling they could do whatever they wanted. But quoting from the Second Vatican Council document Dei Verbum, he said, “We must be faithful and obedient to sacred scripture, the Sacraments and also to the Magisterium.”
“It is important to return to fidelity to the Magisterium,” he said. “What is new is not what I or a priest say, but what is in Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever.”
Boris said although he wished “even more people had joined” the vigil, he was “very happy so many people had got to pray here.”