Italy’s churches to reopen for mass from May 18th

Italy's churches to reopen for mass from May 18th
People pray at Rome's Santa Maria in Trastevere church on May 3rd. Photo: AFP
Mass, baptisms, weddings and funerals in Italian churches will be reinstated from May 18th, provided those attending abide by a set of anti-coronavirus rules, the Italian government said on Thursday.

All public religious ceremonies were cancelled when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown in early March over a pandemic that has since killed nearly 30,000 people, according to Italy's official toll.

The faithful will have to wear masks and sit or stand well spaced out, according to rules drawn up and approved by a scientific committee.

PHASE TWO EXPLAINED: What changes in Italy from May 4th?


In addition, holy water fonts where the faithful traditionally dip their fingers before making the sign of the cross on their forehead, will be dry and there will be no exchanging the sign of peace, which normally involves shaking hands with the people close by.

The most delicate issue from a hygiene point of view will be the distribution of the communion wafer.

The masked celebrant will have to disinfect his hands, put on single-use gloves, and drop the wafer into the believer's hands without coming into contact with them, and while remaining at an adequate distance.

Confession, normally conducted in confined cupboard-like spaces, should only be done in well-aired places – including outdoors if necessary.

Church doors will have to be kept open, to stop people transmitting or catching the virus via the door handles, and spaces used will have to be cleaned after every ceremony.

Some churches in Italy have remained open for prayer, under restrictions, but mass and public ceremonies have been banned at churches across the country since early March.

This includes funerals, which since May 4th have been allowed to go ahead with up to 5 people present – wearing masks and following social distancing rules.

Church wedding ceremonies have not been allowed under lockdown under national rules.

As for civil weddings, this is up to each local authority.

Some towns and cities, including Brescia and Milan, are already allowing ceremonies to go ahead at town halls under certain restrictions – including the requirement that the bride and groom wear masks.

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