Italy shuts down Masses, but leaves everything else going.

A reader sent me a link to the site of the SSPX in Italy. They have a statement in reaction to the government shut down of Masses till 1 March. As you know, there has been an outbreak in Italy.

I like the way the SSPX frames this.

In conseguenza di tale decisione anche la celebrazione pubblica delle Sante Messe è stata di fatto proibita, mentre mercati, centri commerciali e centri sportivi restano aperti.

La Fraternità San Pio X si vede purtroppo obbligata a sospendere tutte le celebrazioni con partecipazione di fedeli nelle regioni coinvolte, non senza stigmatizzare la condotta della Pubblica Autorità che impedisce al popolo cristiano di alzare pubblicamente, in tali circostanze, la propria preghiera verso il suo Creatore.

A tal proposito non possiamo non dirci stupiti dalla mancanza di adeguata reazione da parte dell’episcopato che alza la voce contro la deforestazione dell’Amazzonia, ma accetta, con pronta disponibilità, l’interdizione del pubblico culto da rendersi a Dio.


As a result of such a decision, also the celebration of public Masses has, in fact, been prohibited, while markets, commercial centers, and sports venues remain open.

The Fraternity of St. Pius X sees itself as obliged, unfortunately, to suspend all celebrations with the participation of the faithful in the affected regions, but but not without severely disapproving of the conduct of the Pubblica Autorità that impedes the Christian people from raising up, in such circumstances, their prayer toward the Creator.

In this light, we cannot but say we are stunned by the lack of an appropriate reaction on the part of the body of bishops, who raise their voice against deforestation of the Amazon, but accept, with prompt willingness, the interdict against the public worship to be given to God.


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  1. FrAnt says:

    I wish I could say that I am surprised at the bishops’ non-response, but I am not. One thing that could come from this is that when the virus continues to spread, no one can blame the Church.

  2. Isn’t there a votive Mass against plagues? If so, perhaps priests will consider offering it.

    Is there a votive Mass against oppressive governments? If not, perhaps someone will consider composing one.

    Maybe, if we don’t ask God for deliverance from spiritual and temporal evils, we shouldn’t be surprised to be overtaken by them.

  3. NBW says:

    Very disappointed to hear this.

  4. iamlucky13 says:

    Who is actually shutting down Masses? The bishops, I would think, have canonical authority to do so, although having been following the details of the outbreak relatively closely, I do not see reasonable basis to do more than grant dispensations.

    Whatever authority the government has to prohibit public activities, which you’ll have to indulge for a moment my American view that this authority is very limited as a matter of natural law, can not discriminate against religious activities.

    As a result, I don’t agree with what the SSPX seems to be saying – this restriction appears unjust, so they are not obliged to obey it unless their ordinary or superiors instruct them to do so.

  5. Josephus Corvus says:

    It seems that back in the day when the government banned Masses, the priests still had them in the catacombs. It looks like today, they say essentially, “OK, but we’re really mad about it”. Really surprised that’s coming out of SSPX.

  6. iamlucky13 says: As a result, I don’t agree with what the SSPX seems to be saying – this restriction appears unjust, so they are not obliged to obey it unless their ordinary or superiors instruct them to do so.

    That’s not what the SSPX said. They said they unfortunately feel obliged to obey the order, while strongly disapproving of it; and they are disappointed that the bishops, who fail to have their priorities straight, are standing mute on the issue.

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    Color me naïve. I simply assumed there was a blanket shut down in the affected municipalities on all activity. This circumstance is not only astonishing but absurd.

  8. PennCatholic says:

    I presume the Italian authorities are worried about the spread of the virus during the distribution of Holy Communion. Would it not be reasonable to have Mass without the faithful communicating?

  9. VexillaRegis says:

    Very sad, but not unexpected.

    Today our bishop published an “anti viral” prayer to be read at every Sunday Mass in all churches in the diocese as long as this epidemic lasts. A very good idea, I think!

    There is a lovely Ambrosian hymn about the Most High CORONA, Jesus.

    Jesu corona celsior,
    Et veritas sublimior,
    Qui confitenti servulo
    Reddis perenne præmium:

    Da supplicanti cœtui,
    Hujus rogatu, noxii
    Remissionem criminis,
    Rumpendo nexum vinculi.

    Anni reverso tempore,
    Dies refulsit lumine,
    Quo Sanctus hic de corpore
    Migravit inter sidera.

    Patri perennis gloria,
    Natoque Patris unico,
    Sanctoque sit Paraclito,
    Per omne semper sæculum.

  10. Deborah Y says:

    I live in South Korea, which has seen the number of Covid-19 cases explode over the last week. The rapid spread has been linked to people attending religious services. Our Catholic masses here are crowded with parishioners (many elderly) packed tightly together. Our diocese voluntarily cancelled masses for at least the next few weeks. While it is sad, I am admittedly grateful to be relieved of my Sunday mass obligation given the situation. I’d also like to add to Fr. Z’s much appreciated, ceaseless nagging about going to confession – I’m so happy I went a couple weeks ago since now I realize how foolish it is to assume you’ll always have access to the opportunity.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. tho says:

    The church, in general, is lacking in courageous, and commonsense leadership. Whatever the crisis prayer is sorely needed, especially those of SSPX.
    When I was a young boy, WWII was coming to a close, and in the years shortly thereafter we had a terrible polio epidemic. The state closed all swimming facilities, movie theaters. and any places where crowds of people would gather. But our churches and our Catholic schools remained open. Why you would say, the answer is, because we had strong Bishops, that the politicians were afraid of. Since VII our prelates care more about being in sync with modernity, than being steadfast in recognizing our need for prayer. Pope Pius XII would never have allowed the Italian politician to get away with this.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Traditionally (as in the Middle Ages or during Roman times), it was usually bishops who decided that a dangerous epidemic was taking place and that churches should close, with Church activities redirected toward nursing the sick at home or in the Church’s hospitals. Bishops took command of the situation, doing their best to save the lives of everyone in their city.

    It is a bit shameful to have it work the other way around.

  13. Shonkin says:

    There is another consideration here — not so much regarding the SSPX Masses, which I assume are mostly TLM’s, but the Novus Ordo Masses, featuring the completely stupid handshake with people who have just finished coughing, blowing their noses, etc. I especially dread those handshakes during flu season. Sometimes I tell the people who insist that I am sick. (Sometimes I am; more often they are the sick ones and are trying to spread the joy around.)
    I wish our bishops in the US would put a moratorium on this disease-spreading practice, as well as on Communion under both species, which is also a way to spread sickness.

  14. Shonkin, I never shake hands. My husband and I touch each other’s hands and I don’t look anywhere but down with my eyes closed and my hands folded. I could care less what anyone thinks. Guess I am just rigid. ? I don’t even like touching the back of the pew in front of me because who knows who may have had their hands on it. Blech! I need to resume bringing sanitary wipes with me so I can clean the area I will be using. Also, I wear a veil and if anyone behind me coughs or sneezes I pull my veil over my face until I figure the spray has passed me by. People don’t seem to know how to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

  15. Deborah Y says: I live in South Korea, which has seen the number of Covid-19 cases explode over the last week. The rapid spread has been linked to people attending religious services.

    Can’t help wondering if that’s really true, or just an excuse for the authorities to shut down religious services.

  16. Gaetano says:

    Given the low Mass attendance rates in Italy, you’d think church would be one of the safest public places to be.

  17. Julia_Augusta says:

    I was in Florence. Ash Wednesday masses were not cancelled but I did not go because I am afraid. I don’t want to catch the virus, and I don’t want to be a spreader (someone without symptoms who transmits it), especially to older people. I am devastated that I did not go to Ash Wednesday mass. Instead I prayed in my hotel room. But it’s not the same. I had looked forward to going to the TLM here. I am off to Rome today. I will try to attend the weekday mass at Santa Trinita dei Pellegrini, which is probably less crowded than the Sunday mass.

  18. arcillajohn says:

    A large concern with the spread in South Korea is coming from religious cults. The Catholic Church is has a very good reputation in South Korea, much better than the protestant churches there, so I doubt it is a result of the Authorities targeting the church. Their president is a Catholic too, so it would seem unlikely to me.

    To the point about Churches being open during the poliovirus – while it is sad that public masses cannot be held in some places, it is for the public good that they do not gather where there is a high risk of contracting the virus such as in Hong Kong. I would hasten to remind us all that Corona Virus is transmitted through the air, through close contact with those infected. Moreover, the virus is thought to be able to live outside the body for 9 days. This is different from polio and spreads much quicker as we have seen. While it is unfortunate that public masses have been suspended in these places in Asia, it is for the good of the public. I cannot speak for Italy however, where it seems all else but the church is running smoothly. Antia Moore’s comment on the authorities targeting the church may be more applicable to the situation in Italy.

  19. Jacques says:

    The Corriere della serra gives a list, region by region, of all the public manifestations that the Italian autorities have decided to be suspended until March 1st.
    Not only are masses in churches suspended but also museums, movies theaters, sports centers, including open sporting, public and cultural manifestations.
    Of course, this can look very inconsistent with the markets, supermarkets, railways stations, bus transportations and airports remaining open.
    But I don’t think the decision was peculiarly aimed at impeding the Italian Catholic activities since I presume without being able to confirm it that the mosques, protestant and Buddhist temples have got the same restrictions.

  20. ex seaxe says:

    Looking at CNN reports, I see that this is not just churches. Museums, schools, universities are all closed, public events, such as Carnival, cancelled, and many sporting events either postponed or held behind locked doors. As to markets, people like to eat, and therefor need to buy food. I am making sure I have an adequate supply of pasta and rice, oil and spices etc. in case I need to self-quarentine.

  21. Gaz says:

    I’m reminded of a photo of the Bishop celebrating Mass on the steps of the Cathedral in my diocese when indoor gatherings were banned during the influenza outbreak of 1919. (I wasn’t there – I’ve just seen the photo). I might share the photo with his successor.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Yup. The Daegu, South Korea outbreak is associated with a rather weird Christian sect whose founder claims that he has been given the mantle and powers of Jesus Christ, and that any sickness is only suffered by people who lack faith. So the woman who spread the coronavirus basically felt a lot of pressure to pretend not to be sick, and to show up for long, crowded services.

  23. MI1 says:

    The SSPX also had a fine statement on Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah’s new book. In fact, I find most of their statements reflect Catholic thinking better than the average diocesan press release or Vatican statement. Perhaps the time to automatically reject all things SSPX is long past?

  24. Fr. Kelly says:

    What a contrast with St. Charles Borromeo, who, when Milan was threatened by plague, led public penitential processions to pray for deliverance from it. (Images of him often portray him with a noose hanging around his neck as a sign of his penitence.)
    This despite being warned by many not to allow public gatherings of people because of the contagion. This appeal to God’s mercy through these public processions brought about the end of the plague in Milan.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    As of Feb. 23, the death rate for Covid-19 according to age is:

    80+ years old
    70-79 years old
    60-69 years old
    50-59 years old
    40-49 years old
    30-39 years old
    20-29 years old
    10-19 years old
    0-9 years old
    no fatalities

    So, after age 50 the mortality rate jumps 4x, then 9x, then 20x, then 35x for every 10 years, whereas for anyone younger than 40, the rate is only .2% or about the same as the flu. Unfortunately, since older people tend to be regular/daily Mass attenders, this is a bad place for them to be. Not many older people go to sporting events and the really old do not get out much, which is why the greatest source of concentration of old people, churches, had to be closed.

    Not many young people will die from this virus (unlike the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed mostly young people), but since 12% of the global population is 65 years or older (with some countries, such as Japan, being as high as 33%), it could be a serious problem for the Baby Boomers and older.

    The elderly, especially at this time, should go to confession early and often.

    The Chicken

  26. rhhenry says:

    Would it be appropriate to open the churches one last time for general absolution (with appropriate instruction about making an individual confession ASAP), or would that be a misuse of that form of the sacrament?

  27. etsiamsiomnesegonon says:

    I’m a priest and pastor of two parishes in northern Italy. Although I’m not a friend at all of who we have governing us and I’m not a friend of our Episcopal Conference, in all truth: the government never ruled the closing of churches but just all kind (even religious) of public manifestations. For the Holy Masses every single Bishop in his diocese ruled according to the gravity of the situation. We are 10 miles from the “epicenter” and we didn’t celebrate On Wednesday or will be able to do it next Sunday. It was hard. Wednesday, early in the morning, I blessed the ashes and celebrated the Holy Sacrifice VO. All day long people came in church to pray, impose the Sacred Ashes on their head, taking them to the sick. I’m leaving the church open day and night…in your charity, pray for us. Fr. Max

  28. Fr. Kelly says:

    My prayers are with you and your people, Fr. Max

  29. trespinos says:

    In their statement notifying the faithful that public Masses were suspended during this crisis, the bishops of the Liguria Region (Genoa and surroundings) specifically said that the Sacrament of Confession would continue and recommended it first among the other hallowed Lenten practices. So the Padovan bishops’ example was not followed everywhere.

  30. etsiamsiomnesegonon says:

    Thank you Fr. Kelly. In your kindness and charity, remember us at the Holy Altar of God.

  31. Pingback: Symbolically responding to a (symbolic?) plague | Pluot

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