Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A visitor wears a mask for protection from the coronavirus while touring the Vatican Museums in this Feb. 29, 2020, file photo. A Vatican City official said that the Vatican Museums will have new measures and protocols in place to ensure the safety of visitors when they reopen. No date has been given for reopening the Museums, which have been closed since March 9 on account of the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (CNS) -- As Italian authorities prepare to slowly relax lockdown restrictions in the country, a Vatican City official said it will enact new measures and protocols to ensure the safety of visitors to the Vatican Museums.

In an interview with Vatican News published May 9, Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State, said that due to ongoing health and safety preparations, the museums "do not yet have a definite date on reopening."

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced April 26 that libraries, exhibitions and museums would be allowed to open nationwide May 18 with limited entrance if they could guarantee visitors would observe social distancing and if the institutions followed health regulations designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Following the lead of the Italian government, the Vatican had announced March 8 that it was closing the Vatican Museums, the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica and the museum at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo -- all of which normally draw a large number of international visitors to closed and crowded places.

Bishop Vergez told Vatican News that since then, the limited staff are obliged to wear protective gloves and masks and have their body temperatures measured daily. He also said the installation of thermoscanners to measure the body temperatures of visitors is nearing completion.

Once they reopen, "the museums can only be accessed with a reservation," he said. "This will allow us to stagger the entrances during opening hours" and "visitors will be required to wear a mask."

The Vatican Gardens, as well as the museum at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, will also open with similar protocols in the hopes that local visitors taking weekend trips, "which today seems almost a luxury," would visit the summer residence of the pontiffs, he said.

While the pandemic has forced many institutions to rethink their business models to attract customers, including easier access on the web through virtual tours, Bishop Vergez said the museum preferred not to publicize its exhibitions and instead chose to remain in "silence."

"We saw Pope Francis alone in a deserted St. Peter's Square. Every day we see the rooms and galleries of the museums empty of people. The silence calls for prayer. That's why we preferred to stay a little aside, reduce our communication to a minimum and give a testimony in this sense," he said.

Bishop Vergez also said that while the Vatican Museums' website already provides virtual access to its collections, in this day and age "we have a great need for reality, a desperate need."

"Let's not forget that it is the people who make the museums alive and only the real experience of the museum makes people alive," he said. "Virtuality can never replace reality; to enjoy art you need eyes and heart, not screens to touch -- or at least, not only those!"

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

In the 1950s in Omaha, Neb., the multi-racial DePorres Club realized it needed to escalate its tactics from uplifting the Black community to confronting white discrimination.
Matt HollandMay 20, 2022
“I really would prefer not to do this,” the archbishop of San Fransisco told Gloria Purvis. “But I cannot in my conscience allow the situation to continue and cause this scandal.”
“Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi’s position on abortion has become only more extreme over the years, especially in the last few months,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a statement May 20.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 20, 2022
Image: Apple TV/Netflix/IMDB
My heart is not large enough, my consciousness is not spacious enough for all the spot-on characters, the hectic energies, the ripping stories. I am not skillful, I think, at TV.
Joe Hoover, S.J.May 20, 2022