Lay Faithful to Gather in Rome to Pray for the Church on Eve of Amazon Synod

The group, concerned about evils and the current situation within the Church, will meet for a prayer vigil near the tomb of St. Peter on Oct. 5

Pope Francis celebrates Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017.
Pope Francis celebrates Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017. (photo: Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Lay faithful from across Italy are expected to gather in a piazza near St. Peter’s basilica next week to pray for the Church as she faces a catalogue of challenges, ones which the event organizers have included in a prayer list. 

Recalling Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s words in 2005 excoriating the “filth” in the Church, and his later words on the “terrifying” sin and persecution from enemies within the Church, the organizers wish to draw attention to the extent of the current evils ranged within the body of the Church and to urge the faithful to pray for her.

“The Church is living through her Passion,” one of the vigil’s organizers called Father Giuseppe wrote in a letter to Vaticanist Marco Tosatti that was later reported in the Italian daily Il Tempo. 

Titled ‘Let’s Pray for the Church!’, the prayer vigil is scheduled to take place at 2.30pm on Oct. 5, in Largo Giovanni XXIII — an open space, usually the location for media on special occasions, at the far end of Via della Conciliazione, the central boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square (the event has a Facebook page here). The Pan-Amazon Synod runs Oct. 6-27 at the Vatican. 

The organizers point out that Benedict wished to remind the faithful that there are men in the Church “who are not ‘of the Church,’ do not belong to her, and who indeed work more than anyone else for her destruction.” And they warn that such people will “one day become the majority,” according to St. Paul’s prophecy in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians. 

“We, a group of Catholic friends, both lay and consecrated, therefore want to pray — together with all those who wish to join us — as close as possible to the tomb of St. Peter, where the popes, with few exceptions, have always desired to reside,” they explain in their publicity. 

Referring to Benedict’s comments above, they also stress the initiative is not an anti-Pope Francis event because the origins of the current challenges long pre-date his election. “Even the last two years of [Benedict’s] pontificate were, for believers, ones of intense suffering,” wrote Father Giuseppe, “and the obstacles placed in his path by declared or hidden enemies were evident to all.”

The organizers and participants will be asking for 10 graces during the prayer vigil. These include praying that those involved clerical abuse scandals not be promoted but removed from leadership positions; that the deposit of faith “not be adulterated;” that the Church be courageous in preaching the Gospel; and that she avoid “acting like sociologists, political scientists, climatologists and ‘logists’ of every kind.”

They will also call on the Lord for the grace so that the “non-negotiable principles” are taught and the inviolability of life upheld, that love for Creation not be confused with paganism or pantheism, and that people are reminded that one’s country is a mother for each person but defense of identity has “nothing to do with nationalism or other aberrations.”

The organizers will also pray to listen to the cry from the church in Africa and Eastern Europe, for Chinese Catholics, and the persecuted throughout the world.    

The public prayer vigil is meant as “a sign of hope,” says Francesco Agnoli, one of the event’s participants. “In the midst of so much confusion, there is a small flock in addition to some cardinals that is calling for an end to the storm.”

October 5, 2019 in Rome, largo Giovanni XXIII, 2:30pm

Let’s Pray for the Church!

It was Good Friday 2005, and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would soon become Pope, declared these unmistakable words: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!...” (Stations of the Cross, IX station).

Once he became Pope, Benedict XVI travelled to Fatima. During an inflight press conference, on May 11, 2010, he told journalists who had asked about the Virgin’s message: “The sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church… today we are seeing it in a truly terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies outside, but arises from sin within the Church…”.

As cardinal and as Pope, Benedict wanted to remind us that there are men in the Church who are not “of the Church,” who do not really belong to her, and who indeed work more than anyone else for her destruction; “the villains and hypocrites who are in the Church,” St. Augustine said in De Civitate Dei [The City of God], will one day become the majority, according to the prophecy of St. Paul in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians.

We, a group of Catholic friends, both lay and consecrated, therefore want to pray — together with all those who wish to join us — as close as possible to the tomb of St. Peter, where the popes, with few exceptions, have always desired to reside. We are asking God for these graces:

  1. that the sexual and financial scandals that disfigure the face of the Church stop, and that the clergy who are involved in these scandals not be promoted to leadership positions but, on the contrary, be removed and invited to repentance;
  2. that the depositum fidei [deposit of faith] — of which no one in Christ’s Church, not even the Pope, is master —not be adulterated;
  3. that religious families, bishops, priests, and professors who are faithful to Christ and the Church no longer be taken over [commissariati], persecuted, or dismissed without concrete and verified accusations, for the sole reason of their attachment to the “faith of all time”;
  4. that the Church’s hierarchy be courageous in preaching the Gospel and hold up her saints as an example to the faithful —not those who have divided and lacerated the Church (like the monk Martin Luther, in times past), or those who fight against life on a daily basis by supporting abortion, free drugs, and euthanasia … (like Emma Bonino, in times present);
  5. that the priority of those who lead the Church be to proclaim the faith in Jesus Christ the Savior, leaving to “Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and that they avoid acting like sociologists, political scientists, climatologists... and “logists” of every kind;
  6. that the men of the Church cease not to proclaim the “non-negotiable principles,” in particular the defense of life and the family, and that they come to terms with the culture of death and gender ideology;
  7. that love for Creation no longer be confused with pagan and pantheistic ecology, nor the “mercy” of God with moral relativism and religious indifferentism;
  8. that we listen to the cry coming from the African church (“May the West not deceive our young people with false myths and false promises!”) and the churches of Eastern Europe which repeat, with John Paul II, that “one’s country is also a mother for each person, in a very true way” and that the “defense of one’s own identity” has nothing to do with nationalism or other aberrations;
  9. that Chinese Catholics not be sacrificed to the Communist dictatorial regime in the name of impossible and unjust agreements, as Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun has repeatedly denounced;
  10. that persecuted Christians throughout the world, who face torture and death for the sake of Christ, no longer hear from Rome that Allah and Jesus Christ are the “same God.”

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Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

No Reason for Being Sad

“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)