ROME — Italy’s Catholic bishops’ conference (CEI) announced this week that an accord has been reached with the government for the re-initiation of public worship, with a series of restrictions.
The “protocol” agreement was signed on Thursday at the presidential palace by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of CEI, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.
The Italian government has decreed that no one can attend Mass without wearing a face mask, which has become a public sign of compliance and submission to the state.
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Quotas will be established regarding how many persons can attend services at one time while still maintaining mandated social distancing, depending on the floor space of each church. Guards will be posted at church entrances to facilitate access and exit and supervise so that the maximum occupancy is not exceeded.
A poster will be affixed outside the church door indicating the maximum number of participants allowed in relation to the capacity of the building.
Priests celebrating Mass will be required to wear gloves and a mask when distributing holy Communion, avoiding contact with the hands of the faithful.
Whenever possible, entrance and exit doors will be kept open so that the faithful do not have to touch the handles.
The protocol stipulates that church buildings will be sanitized before and after worship services. An organist may be present during services, but without a choir, and songbooks and other paper aids will not be made available.
No offertory collection will be taken up during Mass, but special containers will be placed near the church entrance for those who would like to donate to the church upkeep.
Holy Water fonts will remain empty and the greeting of peace will be suspended.
The accord also allows for the resumption of the sacrament of confession, on the condition that it occur in a “large and well-ventilated” space, and that both priest and penitent wear face masks.
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“The security measures outlined in the text express the contents and modalities best adapted to ensuring that the resumption of liturgical celebrations with the people happens in the safest way,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte following the signing of the accord.
“I thank the Italian bishops for the moral and material support that they’re giving to the entire nation in this difficult moment,” he said.