“Would not recommend anyone to travel to rome”

St. Peter’s Square empty of people © Vatican Media/Romano Siciliani (KNA)

Tourists are staying away at the Vatican because of Corona. Not only does this mean that immense revenues will be lost by the Vatican Museums. Also the weeds are sprouting around St. Peter’s Square. But churches remain open despite renewed restrictions in Italy.

Interviewer: How big then is the weed problem in St. Peter’s Square without tourists?

Alexander Pitz (Rome correspondent for Catholic News Agency): I walked through St. Peter’s Square this morning. So far, it’s not too much of a problem. But it is already noticeable. I have looked, between the paving stones actually already the green grows and presumably must there soon times a gardener or something to it.

Interviewer: Now in one week, on 11. December, the famous Christmas tree in the middle of St. Peter’s Square, along with the crib inaugurated. The tree this time comes from Slovenia, a spruce tree. A strange sight when the crowds do not come to visit?

Pitz: Yes, definitely. There will be some celebrations but with few people. It will be a different Christmas and a different Advent this time than we are usually used to.

Interviewer: How can visitors see it this year?? What measures will be taken?

Pitz: To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to travel to Rome at the moment, because especially around Christmas time, the whole country and also the city will be getting more and more isolated. Anyone flying to Rome from Germany must first go into quarantine for ten days. This will all continue until 6. January last. The decree is still relatively fresh and in 2021, I think, tourism will really take off again. However only in the second half of the year, so say the tourism associations.

Interviewer: The changed situation in the Corona year also affects St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums. Missing the missing tourists?

Pitz: For the Vatican Museums this is quite serious, because the museums are the "cash-cow" of the Vatican. Since fixed revenues are generated, otherwise monthly in the amount of 12.5 million euros. They are now missing since the beginning of November again completely. How long the closure will last is an open question. And not everyone is happy about this state of affairs either. Barbara Jatta, the director, has signaled that she does not fully agree with the new closure. Because, we have been on the tours, there was really a sophisticated security concept from June onwards. And basically really not a great risk of contagion. Nevertheless, everything is now closed again. The 1.000 museum employees fear for their jobs. But there is a firm arance from Pope Francis that there will be no entanglements.

Interviewer: How can Catholics who, if the situation were different, would make a pilgrimage to Rome and visit the Vatican, live out their faith??

Pitz: The churches will remain open. The Italian Bishops’ Conference has attached importance to the fact that there will be no renewed bans on religious services. That caused some displeasure here in the spring. There will also be Christmas services. However under the appropriate security conditions. Thus, z.B. the Christmette this year probably brought forward, in order to be able to keep the nightly curfew. Additional measures are also planned. But, if you are in Rome and in Italy, you can visit churches, you can cultivate your faith. This is still possible.

The interview was conducted by Katharina Geiger.

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