Italian bishops seek return of Mass, weddings and funerals

Italian church leaders wish to resume religious ceremonies while respecting health regulations.

Italy's Conference of Bishops (CEI) is to ask the government to be permitted to resume public Masses and religious ceremonies including funerals, weddings and baptisms, as Italy prepares to enter "Phase Two" of the Coronavirus emergency.

The Conferenza Episcopale Italiana has prepared a package of measures to be presented to the government, reports Italian news agency ANSA, which are designed to allow a return to the church while maintaining social distancing and in full respect of health regulations.

The CEI wishes to resume Masses open to the public, with volunteers to guarantee social distancing, as well as a resumption of funerals, baptisms and weddings with the presence of close relatives, and community meetings provided participants wear personal protective equipment.

"With all the attention required by the emergency we must return to 'inhabiting' the Church, the country has a profound need for that, there is a huge demand and responding means giving a contribution to social cohesion," CEI Undersecretary Fr Ivan Maffeis told ANSA.

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All public Masses in Italy have been suspended since 8 March, in line with government measures to combat the Coronavirus, with Italy’s ecclesiastical lockdown the longest-running in the world, according to Crux, the online newspaper covering news related to the Catholic Church.

Crux quoted Italian premier Giuseppe Conte who over Easter wrote to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, to thank them for the cooperation of the Italian church which "once again has demonstrated its natural vocation to dialogue and cooperation with civil institutions, and its capacity to read, with wisdom and discernment, the signs of the times.”

Italy's current lockdown measures are in place until 3 May. However the country recently allowed the reopening of bookshops, stationers and stores selling children's clothes, in addition to supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacconists and several other specialist shops which have remained open throughout the lockdown.

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