Catholics in Italy will be allowed to take part in mass again from 18 May, if they are willing to comply with several measures.
“The Italian Bishops cannot accept that the exercise of freedom of worship should be compromised,” the Italian Bishops’ Conference, which had been negotiating with the government for weeks, said after religious celebrations in the presence of public were excluded from the phased deconfinement plan that Italy announced last week.
Priests will have to disinfect their hands, wear single-use gloves, a mask and have to keep an “adequate safety distance” while giving the communion wafers, “without coming into contact with the hands of the faithful.”
Confessions should happen in “large and airy” places, where both social distancing and confidentiality can be respected, while the confessor and the priest must wear a face mask.
The doors must remain open to prevent the public from touching them, and disinfectant gel will also be made available.
Choirs are still banned, but an organist is tolerated.
The churches must be cleaned thoroughly and regularly after each mass.
Only a limited number of people will be allowed to attend a mass. Each church will have to define and display this maximum capacity at the entrance, taking into account the distance of one meter between the participants.
Posters will be put up, reminding people that it is forbidden to enter with fever, flu or respiratory symptoms, or after they have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus in the previous days.
Volunteers stand guard at the entrances to make sure too many people do not enter at once.
The agreement between the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) and the government was approved by a scientific committee and will have to be followed by the public to attend masses and other religious ceremonies, such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.