By Hannah Brockhaus
Ahead of its eventual reopening to the public, St. Peter’s Basilica is being cleaned and sanitized at the direction of the Vatican’s health and hygiene department.
Public Masses will resume throughout Italy from May 18 under strict conditions.
After being closed to visitors and pilgrims for more than two months, the Vatican basilica is preparing to open again, with increased health measures, though the exact date has not yet been announced.
Friday’s sanitation procedure began with a basic cleaning with soap and water and has proceeded to disinfecting, according to Andrea Arcangeli, the vice director of Vatican City State’s health and hygiene office.
Arcangeli said staff are disinfecting “the pavements, the altars, the sacristy, the stairs, practically all the surfaces,” while taking care to not damage any of the basilica’s artworks.
One of the additional health protocols St. Peter’s Basilica may adopt as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus is checking visitors’ temperatures, the Holy See press office said May 14.
Representatives of the four major Roman basilicas – St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul Outside the Walls – met May 14 under the auspices of the Vatican Secretariat of State, to discuss this and other possible measures to adopt.
Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told CNA that each papal basilica would adopt measures that reflected their “specific characteristics.”
He said: “For St. Peter’s Basilica, in particular, the Vatican Gendarmerie will provide for access restrictions in close collaboration with the Inspectorate for Public Security and will facilitate safe entry with the assistance of volunteers from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.”
Rome’s churches are also being sanitized ahead of the restart of public liturgies May 18.
After a request from the Vicariate of Rome, nine teams of hazardous-material specialists have been dispatched to disinfect inside and outside Rome’s 337 parish churches, according to the Italian daily newspaper Avvenire.
The work is being carried out through the cooperation of the Italian army and Rome’s environmental office.
During public Masses, churches in Italy will be required to limit the number of people present – ensuring a one-meter (three feet) distance – and congregants must wear face masks. The church must also be cleaned and disinfected between celebrations.