VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Starting Oct. 1, people wishing to enter Vatican City will have to provide proof they have received the vaccine, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative for the virus within 72 hours.
To enter Vatican City, people will have to present a Green Pass, the certification used in Italy to avoid the spread of the pandemic, or any international equivalent. The decision was announced on Monday (Sept. 20) and signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
“An exception is made for those who participate in the liturgical celebrations for the time that is strictly necessary to perform the rite,” the document read, adding that social distancing, mask mandates and hygiene measures will still apply.
It remains unclear in the announcement whether faithful wishing to participate in Pope Francis’ weekly general audiences and Angelus prayers will also have to present a document certifying they are vaccinated or have tested negative to COVID-19.
The decree also does not seem to specify whether there will be sanctions for those who fail to comply with the safety measures. In Italy the penalty for not presenting the Green Pass is withholding of salary or paying a fine.
The Vatican police authorities will be charged with enforcing the decree, which applies to Vatican employees, visitors and people offering goods and services who wish to enter the small city-state.
Pope Francis has strongly advocated in his speeches and in public service announcements for the COVID-19 vaccines. At the Vatican he created a COVID-19 commission charged with promoting and distributing vaccines, especially among the poor and disenfranchised.
While most people at the Vatican have been vaccinated, including the pope himself and his predecessor Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, Francis said they are “studying how to help” those who remain hesitant.
On the flight back from his apostolic visit to Slovakia and Hungary on Sept. 15, Pope Francis admitted that “even in the College of Cardinals there are some vaccine negationists.” He also spoke favorably of vaccines and their positive impact in history to prevent measles and polio.
Francis addressed the concerns of vaccine skeptics, encouraging people not to give in to vitriol or anger toward the unvaccinated but instead engage them in conversation to “clarify things and speak calmly.”
Some bishops and priests in the United States have spoken in favor of allowing conscientious objection for Catholics who object to the COVID-19 vaccine because of opposition to using fetal cell lines in their production and testing. The doctrinal authority at the Vatican has dismissed these concerns, and Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated “an act of love” and “morally acceptable.”