As widely reported the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the national government to commence public celebration of the sacraments (excluding Confirmation) again on May 18th. The first Sunday masses with the laity since strict social isolation was implemented on 8 March will be celebrated on May 24th.
The guidelines agreed to by bishops and scientists foresee no structural changes to the Order of Mass. Priests are obliged to wear masks and disposable gloves for the distribution of communion.
The Italian protocol manifests some careful thinking. Some of the guidelines present practical challenges, e.g., communicating who should or should not come to Mass in the first place. One guideline that I personally find problematic is the one directing that gloves be worn during the distribution of Holy Communion. Does one then wash one’s gloved hands? Destroy (how?) the used gloves? How (and whom) does this protect better than washed and sanitized bare hands?
I am not looking forward to working this and other issues out with the congregation and the pastor, when we get our own guidelines for resuming public Masses.
I may be the only one, but I can’t see how the restoration of open door Masses in catholic churches is possible. How is one to control the numbers attending so as to ensure social distancing? Does each reception of Holy Communion require post reception hand sanitisation or new gloves? What about those smaller churches where the majority of the regular congregation is over 70 and (at least in the UK) expected to be self isolating as far as possible? What about priests over 70? And so on. My hope is that in GB at least the government will consider that churches rank logistically as places of public entertainment and decide accordingly.
Clearly, the difference is that at Mass you’re given Something that you immediately eat. This is unlike grocery shopping, where you handle items and can be relatively safe as long as you refrain from touching your face and wash your hands afterward.