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ROME, Italy, May 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Public Masses in Italy are set to resume on May 18, according to a deal signed yesterday by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

It appears Holy Communion will only be distributed only in the hand, not on the tongue, and priests will wear disposable gloves while doing so.

While “wearing the mask, taking care to cover their nose and mouth, and maintaining an adequate safety distance,” the priest has to “take care to offer the host without coming into contact with the hands of the faithful.”

“The distribution of Communion will take place after the celebrant and, perhaps, the extraordinary minister have taken care of the hygiene of their hands and put on disposable gloves,” the decree stated.

Guidelines from the Thomistic Institute, which have been embraced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, say the “priest celebrant and other ministers should not wear masks or gloves during the celebration of Mass. Instead, they should remain more than 6 feet from the congregation during the entirety of the Mass. In such circumstances, there is no substantial risk of infection” (emphasis in original).

The guidelines, which we made by theologians in consultation with doctors and health experts, continue:

A further consideration: the Mass is imbued with powerful sacramental and liturgical symbolism. Wearing a mask and gloves would be a detrimental counter-sign in this context, and it is not warranted by considerations of hygiene if the priest remains a proper distance from the congregation. (An analogy: public health officials do not wear masks during press conferences, given the nature of those public appearances and the distance between the officials and the audience/press, although they do wear them in private meetings.)

The Italian bishops announced, “In compliance with the health regulations for the containment and management of the epidemiological emergency from SARS-CoV-2, the decree indicates some measures to be carefully observed.”

As the Italian Bishops’ Conference summarized on its website, those measures include “the access to places of worship during liturgical celebrations, the sanitation of places and objects, the precautions to be observed during liturgical and sacramental celebrations, the communication to be prepared for the faithful, as well as some general suggestions.”

“The decree is the result of a deep collaboration and synergy between the Government, the Technical-Scientific Committee, and the Italian Bishops’ Conference, where everyone has done their part responsibly,” said Cardinal Bassetti.

Prime Minister Conte added the security measures “express the provisions and modalities most appropriate to ensure that the resumption of liturgical celebrations with the people takes place in the safest way.” He thanked the Italian bishops “for the moral and material support it is giving to the entire national community at this difficult time for the country.”

May 18, the first day of public Masses in Italy, will be a Monday. The feast of the Ascension will be celebrated in Italy not on a Thursday, but on Sunday, May 24.

Public Masses in Italy were cancelled on March 8. Thus, by May 18, 70 days will have passed without any public Masses in the entire country.

In late April, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò encouraged the bishops in Italy “to decide how to act, with prudence and wisdom, in order to guarantee the Sacraments and the celebration of the Mass to the faithful.”

The Pope’s call for “obedience” to Italian “phase 2” restrictions that continued a ban on public Masses was not only “undue, but is also a violation of conscience and harmful to the health of souls,” the archbishop said.

He asked, “Do we think that Our Lord will judge us on having been obedient to Caesar, when this means disobeying God? Is the Christian not bound to conscientious objection, even at work, when that which is asked of him violates the Divine Law?”

At the same time, Viganò said the newest decree of the Italian government violates a concordat between Italy and the Vatican, and thus international law, by keeping public Masses banned.

“The Concordat between the Holy See and the Italian State recognizes that the Church has, as its ‘native right,’ full freedom and autonomy in carrying out her ministry, which is given proper social and public expression in the celebration of Holy Mass and the administration of the Sacraments,” the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States told Marco Tosatti.

“No authority may interfere in this ministry,” Viganò added, “not even with the consent of Church authority, which is not the master of the Sacraments but rather the administrator of the grace conveyed by them.”

It is the task of the individual bishop of a diocese, he said, to decide “with full autonomy, for the good of the souls entrusted to him as Pastor, which functions may be celebrated there and by whom they may be celebrated.”

As LifeSiteNews reported, the Italian Bishops’ Conference had criticized the Italian government on Sunday night for extending the ban on public worship into “Phase 2” of its strategy against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Following the statement of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray for the “grace of … obedience” regarding “Phase 2” of the country’s lockdown regulations.

“At this time when measures for leaving the quarantine are beginning, let us pray to the Lord that He will give his people, to all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience, so that the pandemic does not return,” the Pope said.