Churches will remain open to the faithful this time around, but are still subject to pandemic protocols.
The Italian government has renewed its COVID-19 restrictions as cases are on the rise throughout the European country, but this time policies will allow churches to remain open for prayer and Mass. This announcement from the Italian bishops’ conference comes after Pope Francis ordered the Vatican Museums to close once again and changed his weekly general audience back to an isolated, live-streamed format.
Catholic News Service reports that Italy has instated a curfew each night from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., which is scheduled to last until December 3; however, this curfew may be extended depending on the state of the pandemic at that point. The curfew was accompanied by the complete closure of museums, movie theaters and gyms, as well as moving secondary school students back to virtual classes.
Italy will also be following a three-tiered system to identify the most at-risk areas, which will be colored (yellow, orange, and red) based on the level of recorded infections. Faithful living in red zones will not be turned away from churches, but they will be required to fill out a government issued self-certification form, which will help authorities track down the source of any outbreaks.
The Italian bishops’ conference advised priests to practice “conscious prudence” in regards to their pastoral duties, and suggested priests return to the use of digital technologies for all services that do not require in-person worship. In church, congregants have been directed to socially distance themselves and wear masks, as well as following other government ordered measures.