HARRISBURG - Diocese of Harrisburg Bishop Joseph P. McFadden celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI on Friday, the first of a number of activities related to the resignation the pope and the election of his successor.

Throughout the Diocese of Harrisburg, priests will include special prayer intentions for the pope and his successor at all Masses.

"All during this period Catholics are being asked to say devotional prayers of every sort, especially the Holy Rosary," said a statement from the diocese. "These should be offered for Pope Benedict, the Cardinal electors and the future pope. The practice of praying the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be to the Father, outside the celebration of Mass, for the intentions of the Holy Father is encouraged, especially for his health and well-being. Prayers explicitly for the pope are also encouraged."

During the final days of Pope Benedict XVI's reign as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Church, parishes and other institutions within the Diocese of Harrisburg are asked to set aside the three days prior to the Holy Father's time of renunciation (February 26, 27, 28) to celebrate the Mass for the pope.

All levels of educational institutions and other institutions within the Diocese of Harrisburg are being encouraged to arrange, in addition to a Mass, if possible, occasions for the Liturgy of the Hours or a Liturgy of the Word or Eucharistic Exposition or devotional prayer to pray for Pope Benedict XVI. It is hoped that this will be done in the three days prior to the Holy Father's time of renunciation.

During the Sede Vacante, or time of a vacant seat when there is no pope, the following is being planned at St. Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg. On Tuesday, March 12, Bishop McFadden will offer the noon Mass for the election of a new pope. All are welcome to this Mass. Parishes and other institutions within the Diocese are asked to select a suitable occasion soon after March 1, other than a Sunday of Lent, to celebrate the Mass for the election of a new pope.

Canon lawyers Dr. Carol L. Houghton and Msgr. William J. King will offer a 40-minute presentation on the norms and procedures for the election of a pope at 10 a.m. Sunday at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Upper Allen Township, near Mechanicsburg. Houghton, a tribunal judge and chancellor of the diocese, and adjunct professor of canon law at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmittsburg, and King, pastor St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish and adjunct professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., will review the canon law norms governing the election of the Roman pontiff.

For directions, see the parish website at steas.net or call the parish office at 717-697-2614. The public is welcome.

Saint Catherine Laboure Parish, 4000 Derry St., Harrisburg, will have two large scrolls available in the narthex of the church this weekend for parishioners to sign with their greetings, support and prayers for the Holy Father. There will be two special Masses offered for the Holy Father: Wednesday, February 27 at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, February 28 at 9:00 a.m. with the school children. The scrolls containing the signatures will be blessed at the Mass on February 28. It will then be sent to the Vatican for the Holy Father.