In Rome on Monday tears were shed as people returned to mass for the first time since lockdown.
One woman told Rome Reports that it was a moment of great joy when she heard she could go to church and receive the sacrament. Another expressed her happiness at being able to “return to church and participate at Mass.”
While mass attendance is now allowed, 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”, said one woman.
Parish volunteers must ensure there aren’t too many people inside the church at once. Hand sanitiser 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.
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.