Italy's bishops criticise public Mass ban

Conte's office has promised bishops a solution to the ban on public Masses.

Italy’s bishops have issued a sharply-worded statement criticising the Italian government for not lifting the ban on public Masses, as part of the Phase Two coronavirus plan announced by premier Giuseppe Conte late on 26 April.

The statement from the Conference of Bishops (CEI) criticised Italy's Phase Two decree, which introduces a gradual loosening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions from 4 May, saying that it "arbitrarily excludes the possibility of celebrating Mass with the people."

The bishops' statement was released immediately after Conte's televised announcement outlining the timeline and range of measures to be taken in the nation's next steps in the covid-19 emergency.

Conte's office responded to the CEI statement late last night, reports Italian news agency ANSA, stating that “a protocol will be studied that will allow the faithful to participate in liturgical celebrations as soon as possible in conditions of maximum security.”

Public Masses have been suspended across Italy for nearly seven weeks after the government issued a decree on 8 March suspending all public religious ceremonies, including funerals. Churches have remained open for private prayer however.

During his Phase Two address Conte announced that funerals may resume from 4 May, attended by a maximum of 15 mourners, while respecting social distancing measures.

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The Italian bishops noted in their letter that they had engaged in "continuous and available dialogue" and that "the Church accepted, with suffering and a sense of responsibility, the government limitations taken to face the health emergency," reports the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

In their 26 April statement the bishops claim they had also presented their own guidelines for a transitional phase which would meet all health standards - reports CNA - and that throughout the negotiations "it was explicitly emphasised that - when the limitations taken on to face the pandemic are reduced - the Church demands to be able to resume its pastoral action."

Italy’s ecclesiastical lockdown is the longest-running in the world, according to Crux, the online newspaper covering news related to the Catholic Church.

Photo: Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com

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