Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh addresses the media in this Aug. 14 file photo. (CNS photo/Chuck Austin, Pittsburgh Catholic)

PITTSBURGH (CNS) — Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik is asking all clergy of the diocese “to fast and pray for the purification of the church” during a “Year of Repentance” to be inaugurated Sept. 23.

The bishop also invited all Catholics to join in the yearlong observance, which is taking place “in light of the scandal of child sexual abuse,” the bishop said in a Sept. 11 announcement.

Bishop Zubik will lead a diocesan-wide service to liturgically inaugurate the special year at St. Paul Cathedral in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.


“Faced with the sinful actions of the members of our own ranks of the clergy, who are called to manifest the example of Christ, we feel both shame and sorrow, and are reminded of our own sinfulness and the need for mercy,” Bishop Zubik wrote in a letter to all priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

He quoted Pope Francis in saying: “The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s people to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.”

There will be special observances on Ember Days: a church tradition of setting aside four sets of three days throughout the year for prayer and fasting. These days were scheduled near the change of seasons.

The Ember Days for the “Year of Repentance” are: Sept. 19, 21, 22 and Dec. 19, 21, 22 in 2018. In 2019, they continue with March 13, 15, 16 and June 12, 14, 15.

Bishop Zubik has asked that on each of these 12 days, clergy of the diocese fast and abstain from meat and observe a Holy Hour. A Holy Hour is an hour spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, which Catholics believe is the real presence of Christ.

Bishop Zubik’s liturgical inauguration of the year Sept. 23 is the Sunday immediately after the first three-day cycle of Ember Days. He will lead solemn evening prayer within a Holy Hour with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Paul Cathedral. The diocese said all Catholics are invited to the cathedral service; parishes also may choose to hold a similar event at their own churches.

To close the year, Bishop Zubik will celebrate an evening Mass at the cathedral Aug. 15, 2019, the feast of the Assumption. He said he chose the feast day “as a sign of hope and healing for victims and for renewal in the church through the intercession of Mary.”

Bishop Zubik also asked the clergy to consider restoring the practice of reciting the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after all Masses. The prayer calls on the saint to protect the faithful against all evil.

“I invite the faithful to join with the clergy as they desire in our acts of prayer and penance. The year is open to individuals to go beyond what I am requesting as we continue to pray that the Lord come to our aid,” Bishop Zubik wrote.