Diocese of Rome offers priests free COVID-19 antibody tests

20200518 Holy Mass at the Parish SantEugenio Daniel Ibez 9 1 Mass at the Church of Sant’Eugenio in Rome on May 18, 2020. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

As Italy moves into a new phase of its lockdown reopening, the Diocese of Rome has announced that it will offer free COVID-19 antibody testing for all priests ministering amid the pandemic.

The serology tests for priests will be made possible by a partnership between the diocese and Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases, the first research center in Europe to isolate the DNA sequence of COVID-19.

Testing for antibodies after one has been infected and recovered from COVID-19 could indicate immunity from the coronavirus. However, the World Health Organization has advised that there is a lack of evidence to indicate whether the presence of antibodies is enough to prevent reinfection. 

A further benefit of COVID-19 antibody testing is eligibility to donate plasma that could be used to aid COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units.

At least 171,300 people in Italy have recovered from the coronavirus, according to the country's health ministry. As of June 11, 236 patients remained in ICU treatment for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that Italy will enter "phase three" of its gradual loosening of coronavirus measures beginning June 15. 

In this next phase, movie theaters and nightclubs will reopen, and youth team sports will be allowed to resume at the end of the month.

Churches and papal basilicas reopened to the public for Mass in mid-May with additional safety protocols to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Catholics are required to wear face masks throughout Mass and sit three feet apart inside of the church.

For the distribution of the Eucharist, priests and other ministers of Holy Communion are asked to wear gloves and masks covering both the nose and mouth and to avoid contact with communicants' hands.

To help parishes meet these health measures, the Diocese of Rome is also offering free packages of 300 gloves for every parish and rectory throughout the city. 

"I wish to express sincere thanks to the direction of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani of Rome and to Msgr. Paolo Ricciardi, bishop delegated for the pastoral health ministry, … for the availability and the spirit of service lavished on this initiative," Msgr. Pierangelo Pedretti said in a statement June 9.

Priests who would like to be tested for coronavirus antibodies must register with the Diocese of Rome by June 15. 

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