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Archbishop Hebda blesses, prays for the sick and suffering, city and state

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Archbishop Hebda blesses, prays for the sick and suffering, city and state

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda held the Eucharist high over the city of St. Paul March 27 on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Paul overlooking the state Capitol.

He blessed and prayed for the sick and suffering, those who care for them, lawmakers and others as the coronavirus hits Minnesota hard.

The shepherd of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Hebda prayed on the same day health officials announced that up to that point, four people in Minnesota had died of complications from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus that began in Wuhan, China, in late December.

The disease has claimed more than 27,000 lives across the world, sickened more than 500,000 and been declared a global pandemic.

He prayed the same day Gov. Tim Walz’s “shelter-in-place” order took effect across the state for at least two weeks, limiting business and other activities to essential services such as pharmacies and grocery stores, medical services and public safety, faith leaders and workers, hardware stores and banks.

About 25% of the business done in Minnesota is affected by the order to stay home.

The archbishop’s blessing and prayer also came the same day Pope Francis delivered a special “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square.

Normally delivered by a pope after his election and at Christmas and Easter, Pope Francis’ blessing included prayers for the sick and dying, for medical workers and political leaders, and a meditation that encouraged people to have faith in the midst of a turbulent storm.

The archbishop said he wanted to pray as the people of Minnesota enter a particularly difficult stage of the pandemic. He spent an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, which was placed in a monstrance and flanked by candles on an altar at the main entrance to the cathedral.

He knelt, stood and held the monstrance high over the city as he prayed from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. He was accompanied by Father John Ubel, rector of the cathedral, and Father Mark Pavlak.

“I realize we are moving into a more serious stage here, as we stay at home,” the archbishop said. “It was an opportunity to pray for this city, for the Twin Cities, really,” and the rest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he said.

In addition to the Capitol, the cathedral looks over Catholic Charities’ efforts to help the homeless and the rest of downtown St. Paul. He prayed for the homeless, for the faithful of the archdiocese and the priests who serve them, for passersby he saw reflected in the monstrance that held the Eucharist.

Asked how people can live through this challenging time, the archbishop said with prayer and reaching out to one another, helping those in need. As people cry out, “Lord, why let this happen?” it becomes a dialogue with God, who wants to hear all our prayers, he said.

“The Lord doesn’t free us from trials. But he is there with us in our trials,” he told The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper.

The archbishop said he had received many emails, texts and notes from people letting him know of their prayers for him.

“I was praying for all of our faithful in a very particular way that they might feel the strength of my prayers the way that I feel the strength of their prayers,” he said.

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Ruff is news editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


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