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World News

Frustrated Italian churches ready to re-open as lockdown restrictions ease

by Heather Preston

Places of worship in Italy are preparing to adapt the way they meet together as the Prime Minister sets out plans to ease social distancing measures.

Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte has said factories can start up again from the 4th of May - with retailers and places of worship remaining restricted for a further fortnight.

It comes seven weeks after the country imposed some of the strictest measures to curb the spread of COVID 19 as more than 26,500 people have died there as a result of the disease.

Vice Chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, Leonardo De Chirico told Premier he welcomes the changes but questions why churches are not seeing them sooner.

"We've been vocal, even to the government to put an end to the limitations, especially as far as the religious activities are concerned. We understand the health reasons behind but at the same time, this is something that is becoming difficult to accept that the government intrudes into the lives of the faith communities," he said.

De Chirico doesn't understand why places of worship have seen such strict limitations when "it is possible to go out to buy cigarettes, but it is not possible to get out and pray in a church building in safe conditions."

"The government has decided to concede to some activities over others and religious activities have been considered as non-essential, non-important," he added

Speaking of how the church will need to adapt following the lifting of lockdown measures De Chirico remarks that adjustments will need to be made to make people feel safe again.

"We will have to multiply services and have at least one fourth of the number of people that we normally have in our meetings. We want the service not to be threatening but a place people feel comfortable."

"Churches are beginning to think about how to make our places safe even from a hygienic point of view, as well as thinking about ways to celebrate the Lord's Supper without people moving around or getting to close. These are new questions that we have to face and we hope to face them responsibly."

When asked about the growth churches have seen in online attendance during the crisis De Chirico commented that it has lead more people to consider their faith and connect with the church. 

He hopes this will have a lasting impact: "We've seen a growth in interest in spiritual things over the pandemic and it will be interesting to see what happens when things become more normal. 

"My prayer is that the gospel will have a breakthrough in this situation, in order to be presented as the real good news for the country," he said.

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