By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As the Italian government imposed new restrictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the Italian bishops’ conference said churches will remain open for prayer and for Masses with the public.
Vincenzo Corrado, the bishops’ director of communications, said Nov. 5 that the new restrictions signed by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte allow for “access to places of worship,” as long as social distancing measures are observed to avoid crowding.
While other countries in Europe have announced new lockdowns as infections continue to rise, Conte has resisted implementing a second nationwide lockdown. The measures he announced Nov. 3 include a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., closing shopping centers over the weekend, the total closure of museums, movie theaters and gyms, and online classes for high school students.
Additional lockdown measures are based on a new three-tiered system that divides the country into zones — yellow, orange and red — depending on the level of contagion.
Four Italian regions — Lombardy, Piedmont, Calabria and Valle d’Aosta — have been labeled red zones. Citizens in red zone areas cannot travel between regions and can only leave their homes for work, school, health or other essential reasons.
However, unlike the nationwide lockdown in the spring, churches, hairdressers and public parks will remain open, while restaurants can make deliveries until the curfew time.
Catholics who wish attend Mass or pray in churches in red zone areas are required to fill out the government issued self-certification form, the Italian bishops’ conference said. However, “conscious prudence” should be observed regarding pastoral activities such as catechism classes.
The Italian bishops’ conference recommended that the “protocols indicated by the authorities should be applied” and encourage the use of digital technology for continuing those pastoral activities that can be carried out remotely.