ROME (AP) — A Catholic Church leader in one of the two regions where another earthquake has caused buildings to collapse is advising parish priests to avoid holding Mass inside churches, in a region barely recovering from a late August quake that left almost 300 people dead.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti told priests in the Umbria region to hold Mass outdoors following the Sunday morning earthquake as well as on All Saint’s Day on Tuesday, a holiday on which Catholic’s remember the dead.
The news agency ANSA said Bassetti, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Umbria, made the decision after consulting with the head of the region.
The earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 has damaged historic churches in the town of Norcia, including the 14th century St. Benedict cathedral in one of the city’s main piazza.
Famed for its Benedictine monastery and its cured meats, Norcia is one of the locations hardest-hit by the latest earthquake to rock Italy. Eyewitnesses said the St. Benedict cathedral, the 14th century cathedral, crumbled and only its facade remains standing.
Priests prayed in the piazza amid the rubble.
Pope Francis is praying for people affected by Italy’s latest earthquake and the people who are offering help.
The crowds in St. Peter’s Square interrupted Francis with applause when he mentioned the quake during his weekly Sunday blessing.
He said: “I’m praying for the injured and the families who have suffered the most damage, as well as for rescue and first-aid workers.”
The earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 that rocked Italy on Sunday morning is believed to be the strongest quake to strike the country since 1980.
A 6.9-magnitude quake in southern Campania that year killed some 3,000 people and caused extensive damage.
The Apennine region of central Italy, located along a major fault line, has been the site of dozens of significant earthquakes since then.
Officials have blamed shoddy construction for the comparatively high death toll from the August quake. The hilltop town of Amatrice, in particular, suffered significant damage, including in newly constructed buildings.
To date, Italy’s deadliest quake in recent history remains the 1908 Messina quake that killed tens of thousands of people.
The head of Italy’s civil protection agency says there are no immediate reports of deaths caused by Sunday’s incident.
Fabrizio Curcio said some people suffered injuries as numerous buildings that had resisted previous temblors in August and last week collapsed. He did not provide details on the nature or extent of the injuries.
Curcio says the agency is using helicopters to tend to the injured and to assess damage.
He says 1,300 people displaced on Wednesday by a pair of powerful aftershocks to an August quake that killed nearly 300 had been evacuated to the coast in recent days and that the operation would continue.