ROME — The Italian bishops have tentatively proposed reopening churches for Sunday worship on May 3 to coincide with the state’s transition to phase two of the national lockdown on May 4.
As Breitbart News reported, this week the Italian government published new regulations for “phase two” of the coronavirus response, which include the reopening of a number of businesses and a gradual easing of some of the harshest rules, such as visiting family members.
The Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has suggested Sunday, May 3, as an opportune date to begin celebrating public Masses, funerals, baptisms, and marriages, while assuring that proper social distancing is respected.
“With all the attention required by the emergency we have to go back to life in the Church; the country is in deep need, there is enormous demand and answering it will make a contribution to social cohesion,” said Father Ivan Maffeis, the undersecretary of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), in an interview with Italian media.
“We all know that the emergency will not be over on 4 May,” Father Maffeis added, “but if we wait for the emergency to end, we might as well put Church life on mothballs forever. That is why we are asking that we be given the opportunity to resume services.”
For weeks, Italian Catholics have been chafing at norms that seem to downplay the importance of church and the sacraments. While tobacco shops, newspaper stands, and computer stores have stayed open as “essential” services, the government has declared that going into a church to pray or frequenting the sacraments is “non-essential” and therefore does not justify leaving one’s home.
Many Italians have also been voicing their disappointment with Church leadership in the face of violations of religious liberty, including the classification of worship as a nonessential activity.
Elisabetta Valgiusti, founder of a Catholic advocacy group called Save the Monasteries, launched an appeal asking bishops to restore Masses and the other sacraments to the faithful during the coronavirus lockdown.
“We appeal for the recognition of the personal need of every member of the Catholic faithful to participate in the Holy Mass so that each person can actively worship while respecting the current legislation,” reads the petition, signed by numerous clergy and laypeople.
Catholics in the United States launched a similar appeal in the form of an open letter to the American bishops requesting the restoration of the sacraments to the faithful.
“Something is terribly wrong with a culture that allows abortion clinics and liquor stores to remain open but shuts down places of worship,” the letter stated. “While safety and cooperation with civil authorities is necessary, we must do everything we can to have access to what is essential for our spiritual lives. We should certainly not voluntarily deprive ourselves of the sacraments.”
Officials of both the Italian Catholic Church and the state have cushioned their proposals of reopening services with the caution that numbers of new cases of coronavirus must continue their downward trend in order for resumption of activities to occur.
That being said, as warm weather sets in, everyone is looking for an excuse to get out of the house and return to some semblance of normality.