Italy’s bishops rebuke government for extending Mass ban as other restrictions loosen
ROME, Italy, April 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― Italy’s Catholic bishops have rebuked the Italian government after it announced new lockdown guidelines that permit various social and commercial activities but not public worship.
The Italian bishops tabled their protest shortly after Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte broadcast the “Phase 2” announcement yesterday evening.
Their statement, published on the website of the Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI), said that despite their own weeks of conversation with the government, including the presentation of their plan for safely resuming Catholic worship, the new guidelines “arbitrarily exclude the possibility of celebrating Mass with the people.”
“We call upon the President of the Council of Ministers and the Technical and Scientific Committee to distinguish between their responsibility―to give exact instructions regarding health―and that of the Church, called to organize the life of the Christian community, respecting the arranged measures, but in the fullness of her own authority,” the bishops wrote.
“The Italian Bishops cannot accept seeing the exercise of the freedom of religion compromised,” they continued.
“It should be clear to all that the duty of service towards the poor, so significant in this emergency, is born from a faith that must be allowed to nourish itself by its sources, in particular the sacramental life.”
The bishops noted that the Italian Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, had told Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire last week that the government was studying new measures to allow greater exercise of freedom of religion in Italy. This had followed a “continuous” conversation and arrangements between the Italian Bishops, the Ministry, and the president of Italy’s governing council.
“[This was] a conversation in which the Church accepted the civil limitations, with suffering and a sense of responsibility, to confront the health emergency,” they continued.
“A conversation during which it has many times been explicitly underlined that―when there is a reduction in the limitations set to confront the pandemic, the Church will― demand to be able to resume her pastoral activity.”
“Phase 2” of the Italian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will loosen one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, one that saw Italians not deemed essential workers confined to their own properties except to buy essential food items or medicine.
The new guidelines will allow some mixing between households. Beginning May 4, Italians will be allowed to visit nearby family members but not travel outside their own regions. They will be permitted to exercise outdoors as long as they maintain a one meter (3 feet) distance from each other. They will be permitted to buy takeout from restaurants. Funerals including up to 15 close relations will be allowed, as long as everyone present wears masks and maintains so-called social distancing. Any other kind of religious gathering or ceremony is still banned.
Face masks, whose price has been capped at 50 Euro cents, or makeshift masks, like scarves, will have to be worn on public transit and, now by law, anyone with a fever will have to stay at home.
Factories, construction companies, and wholesalers have been invited to start planning now for an early May restart. If this loosening of restrictions is successful, shops, museums, and cultural sites will be opened from May 18. Restaurants and beauty parlors will not reopen until June 1, however. Schools will remain shut until September.
Churches in Rome have remained open for private prayer, thanks to an early rebellion by Papal Almoner Archbishop Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. However, some Italian civil authorities have fined Catholic priests for processing through the streets to bless their parishioners. (In other areas, priests have been left unhindered and unpunished.) Some civil authorities, notably mayor Gabriele Gallina of Soncino, have sent police to interrupt Mass celebrations, tipped off by informers that members of the public were present.