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Rome Reports

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Italians overwhelmed with emotion upon returning to Mass after two months

In a number of Italian regions, religious celebrations were suspended starting Feb. 23. It was the start of three months devoid of participation at Mass. In Rome, the emotion was palpable.

“It was a moment of great joy when they told us we could go to church and receive the sacrament.”

“As a practicing believer, I'm very happy to return to church and participate at Mass.”

Mass attendance is now allowed, but the stringent health safety measures could prove frustrating for some.

“Yesterday, I was struck when I returned and saw the division in the pews. It hurt to see that.”

Parish volunteers must ensure there aren't too many people inside the church at once. Hand sanitizer must be provided at the entrance. If the building allows, the entrance and exit doors must be different. Parish priests have put markers on the pews to avoid filling them completely and to guarantee safety distances are respected.

Holy water is no longer available, and the sign of peace is no longer given. It is recommended that priests distribute communion wearing a mask and gloves, and that the church be cleaned thoroughly as often as possible. The military is helping out in some Roman parishes. Other parishes have hired specialized cleaning companies to prevent damaging works of art.

Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale (Rome)
“We're trying to understand the needs of the faithful who want to return to Mass. We're not safe yet, as we're still not sure how the virus will develop with the new season.”

The Vatican also fulfilled its responsibility, disinfecting the basilica before reopening. It also placed warnings in the square to avoid breaking social distancing norms. Air traffic is practically nonexistent, as are tourists, leaving Rome to the Romans. For now, they're the only ones who will be able to visit or pray in the basilica. That's because in Italy, people won't be allowed to travel to different regions until June.

Javier Romero

Translation: Claudia Torres