By Deborah Castellano Lubov

The Italian Bishops’ Conference (the CEI) has formally protested the Italian government’s decision to keep the ban on public Masses throughout the country, as it revealed parts of its ‘phase two’ plan last evening, April 26, 2020, in a televised press conference.

“The Italian Bishops cannot accept to see the exercise of freedom of worship compromised,” they respond, in their statement of protest, reacting to the government essentially saying no Masses with faithful before May 18th, as various other restrictions are being sooner lifted.

“It should be clear to all,” they continue, “that the commitment to the service of the poor, so significant in this emergency, stems from a faith that must be able to be nourished at its sources, in particular the sacramental life.”

Italy has been the worst hit country in Europe, where COVID has claimed nearly 30,000 lives. The numbers are stabilizing and daily deaths are lowering, but the country is still severely affected by coronavirus.

Here is what Pope Francis said recently at Casa Santa Marta: https://zenit.org/articles/pope-pushes-for-access-to-sacraments-churches-with-faithful-full-text-of-morning-homily/

Here is a ZENIT translation of the statement of the Italian bishops:

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The Position of the Italian Episcopal Conference

“The Government is studying new measures to enable the amplest exercise of the freedom of worship.” These are the words of the Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, in an interview granted last Thursday, April 23, to Avvenire, after a continuous and available interlocution between the General Secretariat of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) and the same Presidency of the Council.

An interlocution in which the Church accepted, with suffering and a sense of responsibility, the governing limitations assumed to address the health emergency. An interlocution in the course of which underscored many times in an explicit way that — in the moment that the assumed limitations to address the pandemic are reduced, the Church exacts that she be able to take up her pastoral action.

Now, after these weeks of negotiation, which have witnessed the CEI presenting Guidelines and Protocols with which to address a transitory phase in full respect of all the health norms, the Decree of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers launched this evening excludes arbitrarily the possibility to celebrate Mass with the people.

Recalled to the Presidency of the Council and to the Technical-Scientific Committee is the duty to distinguish among their responsibilities — to give precise indications of a sanitary character – and that of the Church, called to organize the life of the Christian community, in respect of the measures established, but in the fullness of her autonomy.

The Italian Bishops cannot accept to see the exercise of freedom of worship compromised. It should be clear to all that the commitment to the service of the poor, so significant in this emergency, stems from a faith that must be able to be nourished at its sources, in particular the sacramental life.

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