Pope in massive feud with Italian bishops as Holy Father orders churchgoers to stay home

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have caused a rift between the Pope and the Vatican, and bishops and cardinals across Italy. Members of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) have been urging the Government to ease restrictions on churchgoers to allow them to attend mass as the lockdown begins to be lifted next week. But in a message to the faithful to celebrate Saint Martha on Wednesday, the Pope appeared to send a clear message to the CEI when he called for “obedience” from churchgoers.

In his message, the Pope said: “Let us pray to the Lord to give his people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the provisions so that the pandemic does not return.”

According to national newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, the Pope personally phone Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday after bishops and cardinals began opposing phase 2 of the lockdown.

Citing Vatican sources, reporter Massimo Franco said: “A few hours after the tough position taken by the Episcopal Conference against government measures in phase 2, there would have been a phone call between Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Casa Santa Marta, the papal residence inside the Vatican.

“The call sparked speculation of a new protocol to have mass take place outdoor from May 11 as well as debate on the stance Pope Francis adopted on Saint Martha’s day, where he appeared to back the Government and halt, if not disavow, the position of the Cei.”

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BBC Europe correspondent Katya Adler also commented on reports of a rift between the Pope and his bishops.

Writing on Twitter, Ms Adler said: “Italian media report on rifts between the Pope – who has urged Italians to observe #Coronavirus restrictions and bishops who are openly criticising Italian PM for not including church services in the initial stages of lockdown lifting

“Religious leaders in France are making their displeasure plain that religious services not allowed till early June while other lockdown measures are already loosening on 11 May.

“And German government mulling over when to allow church services again after coming under pressure.”

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