Police disperse Catholics at Sunday Mass in Italy

Italian flag Curioso/Shutterstock.

Italian police on Sunday dispersed Catholics attending a Mass being celebrated in a parish outside of Rome. The Italian government has prohibited public gatherings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mass was being offered at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in the Italian town of Cerveteri, some 27 miles northwest of Rome. Earlier this month, the Italian bishops' conference confirmed government measures against public gatherings, effectively prohibiting the public celebration of Mass anywhere in the country.

Some 15 people were present at the March 15 Mass, several of them seated outside of the church, whose doors were opened as Mass was offered. The Mass was being live streamed on Facebook.

Police entered the Church after the distribution of Holy Communion, and before the final prayers of the Mass. The priest was permitted to conclude the Mass after parishioners dispersed.

While some churches in Italy are open for private prayer and the sacrament of confession, government measures prohibit Italians from leaving their homes for any reason except to purchase food or seek medical attention.

The Vatican announced March 14 that the Holy Week and Easter liturgies of Pope Francis will not be open to the public. In other parts of Europe, and in many dioceses across the United States, public celebration of the liturgy has also been suspended.

More than 21,000 people in Italy have been infected with coronavirus, and nearly 1,500 have died.

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