Church and state in Italy work together to prevent spread of coronavirus

The Church in Italy, as well as Vatican authorities, are coordinating with civil authorities to implement measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued a statement explaining some of the steps being taken by the Vatican, “in coordination with the measures launched by the Italian authorities… to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.

Museum closures announced

These actions include the precautionary closure of the Vatican Museums; the “Scavi” (Excavations) Office, which organizes visits to the Tomb of St Peter and the Necropolis under the Vatican Basilica; the Museum at Castel Gandolfo; and the museums attached to the Pontifical Basilicas. They will remain closed until 3 April 2020.

Bishops announce compliance with Italian ordinances

The Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) issued a statement on Sunday indicating their compliance with a Decree issued by the Italian Government which suspends “civil and religious ceremonies” throughout the country, also until 3 April. The Bishops’ Conference notes that the official indication by the government specifically includes public Masses and funerals. The statement notes that this is a very restrictive measure, “which causes suffering and hardship for Pastors, priests and the faithful”. Compliance with this decree, they say, “is motivated solely by the desire to do one’s part, to contribute to safeguarding public health at this time”.

Churches in Rome remain open for personal prayer

In the Diocese of Rome, the Cardinal Vicar, Angelo De Donatis, has issued a degree implementing the decisions of the government. Specifically, churches within the diocese will remain open for personal prayer, as usual, subject to the conditions indicated by the Italian government; while suspending all communal liturgical celebrations during the next three weeks.

Earlier, Cardinal De Donatis sent a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, in which he encourages them to approach the extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak “with the strength of the faith, the certainty of hope, and the joy of charity”. He stresses the importance of seeing the situation through the eyes of God, as an opportunity to turn again to Him, “to rediscover what is essential, to recover the taste for prayer”.

A day of prayer and fasting

In the letter, the Cardinal Vicar calls for all Christians in Rome “to offer a day of prayer and fasting, on Wednesday 11 March 2020, to ask of God help for our city, for Italy, and for the world”. In particular, he asks for prayers for the sick and for caregivers, “and for our communities, that they might bear witness to faith and hope in this moment”.

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