This year, the feast of the patron saints of the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome coincided with the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.
We celebrated a Conventual Mass in the Basilica that Sunday at noon. For the last month, we have been following certain norms which require concelebrants to stay at least one meter [3.25 feet] apart from each other during the Mass. There is no exchanging the sign of peace. During Communion, each priest selects his own host to dip in the chalice. The last priest in line consumes the remaining Eucharistic species and purifies the sacred vessels. Every day, the Basilica functions as a prayer space for the friars; its large main altar area makes it possible for the friars to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass in accordance with governmental and ecclesiastical safety decrees, which were issued during this time of the coronavirus.
In particular, the images you see reveal a lot of empty pews. The photos were taken by Massimiliano COCHI, a journalist who was sent to us that feast day by TV2000, the television station of the Italian Episcopal Conference. His photos document the absence of the faithful, who are still able to follow Sunday and festive Masses from their homes through social media. The photos document the absence of our confreres from the General Houses and the clerical students of the Seraphicum, friars who have always shared this feast with us. At the moment, they are all forced to remain in their own friaries.
As the Mass concluded, the rays of a blazing Easter sun penetrated the Basilica. It was a sign of hope that all this will soon be over. This is what we hope for through the intercession of the Apostles Philip and James. In recent days, their relics have been on display in the crypt for the veneration of the faithful. They will remain on display until the Solemnity of Pentecost.
Friar Agnello STOIA, Pastor