Italy’s Bishops Attack PM Conte For Extending Ban On Mass

This photo taken and handout on April 23, 2020 by the Palazzo Chigi Press Office in Rome shows Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte taking part from his office at Palazzo Chigi in Rome to a videoconference of EU leaders on the virus economic impact, during the country’s lockdown. Handout / Palazzo Chigi press office / AFP.


Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte came under attack on Monday from Italy’s Catholic bishops and even some of his own cabinet members for refusing to reintroduce mass once the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.

Conte has unveiled a gradual easing of restrictions that will restore some semblance of former life starting on May 4.

The Mediterranean country’s official death toll of 26,664 is Europe’s highest and second globally only to the United States.

But the number of infections has been ebbing and scientists believe the contagion rate is low enough to gradually get back to work.

Conte has allowed Italians to take strolls in parks and go jogging starting next Monday.

More stores will reopen and restaurants will resume takeout service.

READ ALSO: French Police Seize 140,000 Black Market Face Masks

Even museums will unlock their gates on May 18 in an effort to drawback tourists and help out Italy’s devastated hotel and services industry.

But there will still be no mass and attendance at funerals will be limited to 15 people.

Conte and Health Minister Roberto Speranza agreed with a scientific committee conclusion that “the elderly in the parish are too frail to risk”, La Repubblica daily wrote.

The bishops are livid.

“We cannot accept to see the freedom of worship compromised,” the Italian Episcopal Conference of the country’s top bishops said in a statement.

“Why on earth, with proper precautions, can you go to a museum but not to mass?”

– Powerful enemies –

The Corriere Della Sera newspaper said the bishops had been lobbying Conte to allow Sunday mass services that would be limited to about 20 people.

They also urged up to 15 people to permitted to attend weddings and baptisms — currently also restricted to just the pastor and immediate family members.

But Conte only allowed broader access to funerals and promised to look into how other religious curbs can be relaxed in the coming weeks.

“I understand that freedom of worship is a fundamental people’s right,” Conte told the nation on Sunday.

“I understand your suffering. But we must continue discussing this further with the scientific committee.”

Italy’s Family Minister Elena Bonetti called Conte’s decision “incomprehensible”.

“It is up to politicians to protect the country’s wellbeing, and religious freedom is among our fundamental rights,” the minister said.

La Repubblica daily warned that Conte was developing powerful enemies at a critical juncture.

Italy’s competing political forces had appeared to put aside their squabbles as the nation entered what was widely regarded as its gravest emergency since World War II.

But Conte has been coming under growing criticism and pressure from regional leaders and political opponents as he decides which industries to open up first.

“This is the (bishops’) first open conflict with the prime minister,” La Repubblica noted.

“There is a battle being waged over everything.”


Notre-Dame Cathedral Holds First Mass Since Devastating Blaze

Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral’s rector Patrick Chauvet (L) greets people arriving for the first mass of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral two months after the fire, on June 15, 2019 in Paris. Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP


The Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris hosted its first mass on Saturday exactly two months after a devastating blaze that shocked the world, with priests and worshippers wearing hard hats to protect themselves against possible falling debris.

Dressed in a white robe and helmet, Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit led the service, which was attended by just some 30 people — half of them clergy.

The mass started at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) in the Chapel of the Virgin on the east side of the cathedral, confirmed to be safe. It was broadcast live on Catholic TV channel KTO.

Aupetit was joined by the rector of Notre-Dame, Patrick Chauvet, other clergy, volunteers, people working on the restoration as well a handful of lay worshippers.

The date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral’s altar, which is celebrated every year on June 16.

The date is “highly significant, spiritually,” Chauvet told AFP, adding he was happy to be able to show that “Notre-Dame is truly alive”.

‘Inventive’ reconstruction

President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for restoring Notre-Dame, which was gutted by a fire on April 15 that felled its steeple and consumed the lattice of beams supporting the roof.

The diocese is awaiting a response from the French authorities over whether it can re-open the esplanade in front of the cathedral to the public.

If the authorities approve the plan, the idea is to celebrate evening prayers there, the diocese said.

The church has also floated the idea of erecting a temporary structure in front of the cathedral to welcome worshippers while the building is being repaired.

Up to 150 workers have been working at the cathedral daily since the fire, continuing to remove debris and stabilise the structure.

Two large white canopies have been placed above the nave and the choir to ensure the edifice is protected, including from the rain.

Macron’s call for an “inventive” rather than identical reconstruction of the steeple has left some architects up in arms.

Meanwhile, legislation over the reconstruction has been blocked in parliament over disagreements between the upper and lower houses and is now only expected to be adopted at the end of July.

Pledges of some 850 million euros ($960 million) had been made from prominent French businessmen and ordinary citizens but only around 10 percent of that has been donated so far.

France Info public radio said just 80 million euros had been handed over, with businessmen giving the money in tranches and some private individuals renouncing their pledges due to the apparent success of the campaign.


Catholic Priest Stabbed During Mass At Canada’s Biggest Church

Canada’s flag


A priest was stabbed during a live-streamed morning mass Friday at Canada’s biggest church, Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, police said.

The suspect was arrested at the Roman Catholic basilica shortly after the attack in front of 50 people and a television audience around 8:40 am (1240 GMT), while priest Claude Grou was taken to the hospital.

Police told AFP that Grou was “slightly wounded in the upper body” when, according to witnesses cited by authorities, “the suspect suddenly ran up to the priest and attacked him with a knife” while he was officiating the mass.

READ ALSO: China Probes Factory Blast As Death Toll Hits 47

The suspect was due to be interrogated shortly, while the scene has been cordoned off.

Church spokeswoman Celine Barbeau said Grou, the church’s rector, “was conscious when he left. We are hopeful he will pull through.”

Video of the attack rebroadcast by CTV showed the assailant — a tall man in jeans, a parka and a white baseball cap — chase the priest around the altar and stab him.

Grou falls to the ground, but quickly gets back up and backs away as security officers surround the suspect and detain him until police arrive.

A witness, Adele Plamondon, told public broadcaster Radio-Canada the priest was about to start reading the gospel, when “this man drew a knife and ran up to stab him.”

The suspect “did not shout, didn’t say anything” during the assault, but appeared “very determined,” Plamondon said.