ROME — Two Italian bishops have banned any unvaccinated priests from distributing Holy Communion at Mass in their respective dioceses in an effort to get all priests inoculated against the coronavirus.
Archbishop Andrea Bellandi of the Salerno archdiocese and Bishop Giacomo Cirulli of the diocese of Teano issued separate decrees this month prohibiting unvaccinated priests from distributing the Eucharist.
Archbishop Bellandi sent out a circular letter to all the parishes of Salerno-Campagna-Acerno, urging unvaccinated priests to examine their consciences.
“For those who have not yet been vaccinated, ask yourselves in conscience if such a choice is coherent and respectful of the numerous invitations made in favor of it, first of all by Pope Francis himself, who has spoken of the vaccine with respect to COVID-19 as ‘an act of love,’ a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for others, especially the most vulnerable,” the archbishop stated in the letter.
“I expressly demand that the Eucharist not be distributed during Mass by unvaccinated priests, deacons, or extraordinary ministers,” Bellandi wrote. “In case of absolute necessity, I authorize that, for distribution, a trusted vaccinated person (religious or catechist) be chosen.”
The 70-year-old Bishop Cirulli issued similar directives for the priests of his diocese in a letter addressed to all the faithful.
“I forbid the distribution of the Eucharist by unvaccinated priests, deacons, religious and lay people,” he wrote, citing a “constantly and seriously worsening COVID-19 pandemic situation.”
The letter declared that during Mass “the hosts on the altar must be kept strictly covered in the their proper sacred vessels.”
Bishop Cirulli also ordered the suspension of “all in-person pastoral, catechetical, and formative activities” until further notice.
In an interview Sunday with the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Cirulli said the measures he imposed are a matter of “simple common sense” intended “to defend the health of the vaccinated faithful and also that of unvaccinated priests and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.”
The bishop said he believes that resistance to the vaccines among Catholics comes from a “certain traditionalist world that opposes the magisterium of the Church and that of Pope Francis in particular.”
In December 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF) released a document affirming that vaccination is not, as a general rule, a moral obligation and therefore “must be voluntary.”