The head of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Italy, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, has signed a protocol with the Italian government to resume public Masses from Monday, May 18, but with agreed conditions that include the distribution of Holy Communion wearing masks and disposable gloves.
Cardinal Bassetti said in a statement the new regulations are the fruit of “profound collaboration and synergy” between the government, its technical-scientific committee and the Italian bishops, “where each has carried out its part responsibly.” He reiterated the “Church’s commitment to contribute to overcoming the ongoing crisis.”
It follows the omission of any mention of resumption of liturgical celebrations when the second phase of a relaxation of lockdown rules to prevent contagion of the coronavirus was announced April 26. Italy’s bishops initially reacted angrily to the omission until Pope Francis called a day later for “prudence and obedience to the rules.”
The conditions, set out in a statement from Italy’s Ministry of Interior, include giving “particular attention” to the distribution of Communion, “taking care, among other things, to offer the host without any contact with the hands of the faithful.”
The protocol states that the distribution of the Communion will take place after the celebrant and the minister of Communion “have taken care of the hygiene of their hands and put on disposable gloves.” They must also wear a “mask, taking the utmost care to cover their nose and mouth and maintaining an adequate safe distance.”
The number of concelebrants at Mass is to be “kept to a minimum,” and while an organist is permitted, “at this stage a choir is omitted.”
It also states that suitable protective measures also apply to “celebrations other than the Eucharist,” such as “baptism, marriage, anointing the sick, and funerals.” For baptism and the anointing of the sick, the priest must wear a mask and disposable gloves.
The sacrament of penance is allowed “in spacious and ventilated places, which in turn allow full respect for the measures of separation and the confidentiality required by the sacrament itself.” The priest and the faithful, it adds, “should always wear a mask.” The celebration of confirmation “is postponed.”
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