Italy’s bishops demand end to lock-down for Churches

Italy’s bishops’ conference is demanding the government lift its ban on public Masses now the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown is being eased.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a gradual resumption of normal life in Italy.

To date, COVID-19 has led over 26,000 deaths in Italy and infected almost 200,000.

For the meantime, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says up to 15 people will be allowed to attend funerals. These are likely to take place outside with attendees wearing masks and observing social distancing.

Gatherings for Masses and other larger liturgies such as weddings remain suspended.

“The Italian bishops cannot accept to see the exercise of freedom of worship compromised,” the bishops’ conference says.

“It should be clear to everyone that the commitment to serve to the poor, so significant during this emergency, arises from a faith that must be fed by its sources, in particular [the] sacramental life.”

The bishops say their letter to the government included proposals for how Masses could be safely celebrated.

Soon after the bishops made their views public, news reports said the government is planning to study guidelines on how to “allow the faithful to participate in liturgical celebrations as soon as possible under conditions of maximum safety.”

In recent decades, the Italian bishops and the government have had close working relationships.

Conte is likely to take the bishops’ request seriously.

He attended the Villa Nazareth, a Catholic college where his teachers included Pietro Parolin, now Cardinal Secretary of State.

A columnist in La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit-run journal where articles are vetted by the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, offered support to Conte when he formed a new government.

The Vatican and the Italian bishops see Conte as a foil to Matteo Salvini’s nationalist politics.

Salvini, who is the leader of the far-right Northern League party and former interior minister, has criticised Pope Francis for adopting a pro-migrant stance.

In August last year, Conte criticised Salvini for his habit of brandishing a rosary at political rallies saying it was “offensive to Catholics, and “undermined the principle of secularism of the modern state”.


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News category: World.

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