Vatican Corner 05-31-2020

St. Peter’s Basilica, the 2,000 year old home to most of the Catholic Church’s crucial ceremonies, and one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world, is being prepared for reopening to the public after being closed to visitors and pilgrims for more than two months. The coronavirus pandemic has halted its 5 daily and 6 Sunday Masses, its ceremonies, and countless tours of its beautiful artistry and engineering. In Italy, public Masses resumed on May 18, 2020 under strict conditions The 337 parish churches in Rome were disinfected inside and out before opening. The Basilica in the Vatican and the three other major Vatican Basilicas: St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul Outside the Walls, those three located outside the Vatican boundary but on Vatican grounds, are still being readied for opening as of this writing. Under the supervision of the Vatican’s health and hygiene office, the Vatican staff began cleaning the basilicas. First soap and water was used and then came disinfecting. Practically all the surfaces are being cleaned and sanitized while care is being taken not to damage any of the artwork. The Pontifical Council for Culture released suggestions for cleaning and disinfecting and said under no circumstances should paintings or historical document be disinfected. They said corrosive products such as bleach, ammonia and detergents are not suitable for objects of art and cultural heritage and can leave “harmful residues” causing irreversible damage. They said those products should not be used on monumental complexes, historical buildings, archaeological sites and objects, movable heritage, fabrics, embroidery, etc.” Instead they advised use of “diluted hydro-alcoholic solutions or neutral soaps.” Also items too delicate for disinfectants can be isolated for a period of time, from 9 to 14 days according to the scientists, and common sense should be used. Some of the health protocols that may be adopted as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus are: checking the visitor’s temperatures, controlling access with the use of the Vatican Gendarmerie (police) assisted by volunteers from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, limiting the number of people attending, no hymnals to be used, ensuring a least one and a half meters (5 feet) minimum separation between people, no passing of collection baskets, face masks to be worn, markings on the ground indicate how far apart people must stand, Communion only received on the hand, Priest to wear a mask and gloves when distributing communion, omitting the handshake in the sign of peace, initially banning the choirs, holy water fonts drained, and the church cleaned and disinfected between celebrations. Father Joseph Hudson, a Benedictine priest studying in Rome said “Italy is emerging from a very difficult period in its history. As nothing can cancel life and all the essential events surrounding it, so nothing can cancel the religious needs proper to humanity. Marriage, baptisms, forgiveness of sins, and communion with Our Blessed Lord are as needful for the soul as ordinary nourishment and communion is for the body.”