09202020

Vatican issues guidance on cleaning as churches reopen: 'New reality'


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As Catholic churches begin to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican released guidelines for cleaning churches and sacred objects in a “new reality.”

Houses of worship shut their doors due to stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but as they prepare to reopen, new protocols are being put in place.

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The Pontifical Council for Culture, a Vatican department responsible for fostering relationships between the Church and other cultures, issued instructions Wednesday on handling, cleaning and disinfecting sites.

It forbade the use of “bleach, ammonia, and detergents,” but recommended isolation of objects that could not be cleaned, if necessary, for up to 14 days.

Parishioners wearing face masks are given hand sanitizer as they arrive for an in-person Mass using social distancing at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio, May 19. San Antonio parishes that have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have began opening their doors to in-person services. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“Above all and most importantly, common sense must prevail,” the council said.

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The Archdiocese of New York released its phase-in plan Thursday in response to the guidelines, including limiting attendance to 10 and offering masks to parishioners, FOX 5 reports.

Some churches have done deep cleaning, but the council doesn’t recommend this for churches or chapels because “after a month of closure, the existence of the virus in such spaces is unlikely.”

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Cleaning procedures should be in place for exteriors of display cases or other objects “touched by the faithful.” After each Mass, floors should be cleaned and disinfected.

Juan Arriola helps clean and sanitize pews following an in-person Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio, May 19. San Antonio parishes that have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic began reopening their doors to in-person services. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Juan Arriola helps clean and sanitize pews following an in-person Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio, May 19. San Antonio parishes that have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic began reopening their doors to in-person services. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“It is recommended that it be maintained permanently, once the new reality that awaits us has returned, in order to avoid the future diffusion of any pathogen,” the guidance reads.

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Priests should wear disposable gloves and a masks when touching “elements of the heritage,” such as church furnishings or artifacts, and “in no event should a work of art, a historical or documentary element be disinfected.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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