After a brief closure, Rome’s parish churches are once again open to the faithful.
The reopening came less than one full day after Rome’s Cardinal Vicar, Angelo De Donatis, ordered every church in the diocese closed. The emergency closure was billed as part of measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that has strained Italy’s healthcare system and caused widespread disruption to ordinary life up and down the peninsula.
Chapels, shrines, and other worship spaces are to remain shuttered, but parish churches and mission seats are once again open to the faithful for private prayer and devotion.
The reopening came Friday, shortly after Pope Francis urged pastors not to abandon the faithful in this time of crisis.
“Let us unite ourselves in these days with the sick, [and] with families suffering in the midst of this pandemic,” Pope Francis prayed at the start of daily Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae on the morning of Friday, March 13th, the seventh anniversary of his election to the See of Peter.
“I would like, today, to pray as well for pastors,” Pope Francis said on Friday morning, “who must accompany the People of God in this crisis: that the Lord give them the strength and the wherewithal to choose the best means for helping.
“Drastic measures,” Francis went on to say, “are not always good.”
The Pope asked the Holy Spirit to give pastors the capacity — the “pastoral discernment” in his precise words — “in order that they adopt measures that do not leave God’s holy and faithful people without assistance.” Francis went on to specify: “Let the people of God feel themselves accompanied by their pastors: by the comfort of the Word of God, the Sacraments, and of prayer.”
Pope Francis’s almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, was ahead of the pope’s vicar for the Rome diocese.
On Friday, Crux reported that Cardinal Krajewski had opened the doors to his titular church of Santa Maria Immacolata on the Esquiline Hill between Piazza Vittorio and the cathedral basilica of St John Lateran, in defiance of the Cardinal Vicar’s order to shutter churches.
“It is the act of disobedience, yes, I myself put the Blessed Sacrament out and opened my church,” Cardinal Krajewski told Crux on Friday. He also told Crux he would keep his church open, and the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration, all day Friday and during regular hours on Saturday.
“It did not happen under Fascism, it did not happen under the Russian or Soviet rule in Poland — the churches were not closed,” he said. “This is an act that should bring courage to other priests,” he added.
Also on Friday, the director of the press office of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, responded to queries from the Catholic Herald regarding whether and to what extent remote working protocols were being implemented across curial and other Vatican offices and outfits.
Those questions followed a statement from the press office on Thursday, announcing that curial offices would remain open, albeit with modified working conditions and protocols. “It has been decided,” read a communiqué sent from the press office of the Holy See to journalists shortly before 1pm Rome on Thursday, “that the dicasteries and entities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State shall remain open in order to ensure essential services to the Universal Church, in coordination with the Secretariat of State, applying at the same time all the sanitary norms and labour-flexibility mechanisms established and issued in days past.”
“[The protocols] have been implemented,” Bruni said. “I do not have a clear map of each structure,” Bruni continued, “but more than half my staff at the Holy See Press Office is working from home and taking turns in coming to the office.” Bruni said the press office remains open to accredited journalists, who can work out of the office at need.
Bruni said work stations are subjected to disinfection at regular intervals, and noted that — unsurprisingly — business has been slow of late. “We have provided for a limit to the number of people who can be present simultaneously,” Bruni said, “though this is far from being reached in these days.”
In the rest of the Vatican, “Each Dicastery is identifying its ‘essential’ services, so as to guarantee their continuation, while furthering safety measures by enabling a part of its staff to work offsite,” Bruni said. “Similar measures,” he went on to say, “are being implemented throughout the Dicastery for Communication.”
Earlier on Friday, the Catholic Herald reported that best practices were still developing, and noted that Romans usually find a way. That assessment stands, and seems to be bearing out.