After months of isolation, we’re all ready to gather and worship God together.
While most American churches have yet to reopen, our Italian brothers and sisters are leading the way!
And Italian church leaders had this to say about faith amid the pandemic and the changes that will come with re-opening:
“[This time in history] has open a new era in the transmission of the faith,” said Fortunata DiNoto, a priest in the Southern Italian area of Sicily.
DiNoto and his fellow church leaders are excited to continue using the Internet as a way to facilitate church services, but they’re even more thrilled at the thought of welcoming their parishioners back in person.
DiNoto and others are eager to see how the public perception of faith has changed because of the pandemic. They hope that more Italians will recognize the importance of faith and relationship with God because of these trying times.
“[We approach this reopening] with the hope that humanity will remain always human, needful of God and not of religious services, like any other service,” DiNoto said. “Because faith is not a business activity, but much more.”
The Italian government authorized the reopening of public services starting May 18—cause for great celebration among the faithful there!
Government officials have collaborated with church leaders to find a balance between religious freedoms and appropriate safety measures amid the ongoing pandemic.
“The protocol [for reopening] is the fruit of a profound collaboration and synergy between the government, the Scientific and Technical Committee and Cei [the Italian Bishops’ Conference], in which each did his part responsibly,” said Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti.
Bassetti and others worked hard to specify rules for sanitization and social distancing during services.
Priests and attendees will be asked to wear health masks and gloves in some cases, and attendance will be capped to prevent large crowds from gathering.
“The required safety measures in the [protocol] present the appropriate methods and modalities to ensure the reopening of liturgical celebrations with the people takes place in the safest way,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Conte thanked Cei and the Italian church as a whole for “the material and moral support that it gave to the entire collective nation in the difficult time for the country.”
Italy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 223,000 documented cases and more than 31,300 deaths so far.
But the Italian church has demonstrated Christ’s love throughout this crisis by faithfully and fearlessly serving the poor, the sick, and the homeless. It’s been an amazing witness to a country in need.
In fact, some regions of Italy have seen a revival of faith during the pandemic as desperate healthcare workers have turned to God for help and solace.
DiNoto and his fellow workers are happy to start providing religious services to their people again, but they’re aware that the restrictions imposed for safety will make these early days difficult in many ways.
“Some priests are hesitant, are still afraid to open, it’s too soon, too much hurry,” DiNoto commented. “These are legitimate perplexities.”
Additionally, DiNoto recognized that the idea of limiting large crowds went against his instinct as a church leader.
“Who will we let in and who will we ask not to enter once the pews are occupied?” he asked. “These are some of the legitimate questions that my brother priests write.”
“The virus changed our lives and it will increasingly impose a change in pastoral perspectives, which will have to be reinvented.”
DiNoto is not alone in working through these issues.
Bishop Piero Delbosco is thinking about holding services outside as much as possible as a way to decrease the risk of virus transmission while allowing larger crowds.
“We need to think about increasing the number of celebrations where it’s possible to do it outside, even if it’s a little risky,” Delbosco said.
“There are plenty of churches that have a large yard, where it’s possible to celebrate outside, and that’s certainly the ideal place where people can keep their distance.”
It’s providential that summer is on the way in Italy, so these outdoor gatherings are more feasible!
Keep praying for DiNoto, Delbosco, and our other brothers and sisters in Italy as they start going back to church.
Let’s pray that they will find ways to stay safe while focusing on the many ministry opportunities available during this time of crisis! May Italy’s people be forever impacted for Christ.