ROME (LifeSiteNews) — The Italian Catholic bishops’ conference is finally re-instating the use of holy water in church fonts, after having banned it at the outset of COVID-related restrictions in spring 2020.
In a statement issued December 2, the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) president – Cardinal Matteo Zuppi – rolled back restrictions which had been put in place in early March 2020 affecting the nation’s Catholics.
The directive, which was sent to the Italian bishops, stated that “it is possible to return again to restore the use of holy water fonts.”
While a very few churches in Rome have more recently provided holy water for use upon entering the church, most of the holy water fonts have remained empty and dry until now. It remains to be seen how long it will be for the change to take effect.
The CEI’s statement noted that mandatory physical distancing was no longer a requisite for members of the congregation, adding that offertory processions and the sign of peace (as practiced in the Novus Ordo) could be re-instated.
However, the directive still contained remnants of the restrictions placed on Mass-goers as seen during the height of the COVID related restrictions.
Some limitations remain regarding the administration of Holy Communion, with “ministers” being “advised to sanitize their hands before distributing Communion.” Earlier this year, the CEI already rolled back its previous ban on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue – a ban which violated Canon Law.
In its latest statement, the CEI also wrote that anointings in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and Extreme Unction could be carried out without using the liturgical objects.
Meanwhile, Catholics presenting with “flu symptoms and those undergoing isolation” due to testing positive for COVID-19 were still advised to “not participate in celebrations” of the Church’s liturgy.
The CEI statement allowed room for individual bishops to implement their own measures, as they did upon re-allowing Holy Communion on the tongue in March. On that occasion the bishop of Milan decided to continue many of the COVID-related restrictions, including the ban on Communion on the tongue. Some regulations became stricter than the recently eased CEI measures, drawing sharp criticism.
Italy was subject to severe COVID-19 restrictions, affecting both the public sphere and for Italy’s Catholic Mass-goers. Public Masses in Italy were cancelled on March 8, 2020, only to resume on May 18. Even then, priests were to sanitise their hands before distributing Holy Communion. This was in addition to wearing disposable gloves and standing away from those receiving Communion.