ROME – Several unplanned protests have broken out in Rome in recent days over coronavirus restrictions, and among the demonstrators have been some high-profile traditionalist Catholics.

On Sunday afternoon around 300 protestors gathered in Rome’s central Piazza Venezia to voice opposition to Italy’s increasingly strict anti-COVID measures.

At the same time, another group of protestors congregated in Rome’s Piazza della Boca della Verita – where the city’s famed mythical stone carving called the “Mouth of Truth” is located.

Both protests, which were spontaneous and lacked city approval, were organized by far-right groups including the Forza Nuova, or “New Force” rightwing political party, and groups such as “Orange Vests” and the “Ultras.” Forza Nuova’s leader, Italian politician Roberto Fiore, was also in attendance.

Protests were eventually broken up by police, who donned riot gear and were armed with a fire hose to keep protestors back.

Participating in the protest at Piazza della Boca della Verita was Florian Abrahamowicz, a former member of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which is in breach with the Vatican over disputes regarding the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.

In 2009, Abrahamowicz was expelled from the Society for espousing numerous conspiracy theories, including denials of the Holocaust.

After the main action was over, Abrahamowicz offered Mass with a few dozen protestors, saying the people of Italy were gathering “in front of the Mouth of Truth,” insisting, “we know that justice will be rendered in the time and ways that God wills.”

An Italian flag was used as the altar cloth for the Mass, where attendees wore no masks, did not observe social distancing, and received communion on the tongue – a practice which has been banned by the Italian bishops to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Similarly, Father Livio Fanzaga, founder and host of the main show on Radio Maria, recently went on air calling the coronavirus a conspiratorial “project” he attributed “to the devil.”

This “project” was conceived “with a specific aim,” and was prepared for at the political level and at the level of the mass media, he said, accusing the media in the west of promoting a politics that “they want.”

“Everything in its place to create a type of state healthcare body, or a state body which is a mass-mediatic body, a project designed to weaken humanity, put it on its knees, establishing a sanitary dictatorship, a cybernetic dictatorship, creating a new world which is no longer that of God the creator, but is another new world through the elimination of all those who obviously don’t accept this criminal project,” he said.

Insisting that the coronavirus pandemic is “something criminal carried forward by the global elite” and in which governments are complicit, he argued that the goal is to build a new world without God” and in which “we will all be like zombies.”

This, he said, would be “the world of Satan…It’s a project, not a far-fetched thing. They would like it to happen by 2021, in my opinion.”

Fanzaga and Abrahamowicz join a growing Italian cohort who are pushing back against the Italian government over closures, curfews and stricter regulations as coronavirus numbers in the country continue to spike.

In the past 24 hours, Italy has recorded 27,354 new cases of COVID-19, and 504 deaths COVID-related deaths.

Currently, the Italian government is operating on a color-grid system, declaring regions as either red, orange or yellow zones.

Red zones operate under full quarantine measures, while orange zones endure partial-quarantine restrictions, and yellow zones minimal restrictions, such as a 10p.m.-5a.m. curfew, the closure of museums, gyms, movie theatres and pools, and requirements that restaurants stop table service after 6p.m.

However, differently than Italy’s spring lockdown, this time hair salons, laundromats, and barbers can all stay open, provided they comply with healthcare regulations.

There are currently seven regions dubbed “red zones,” including Lombardy, Bolzano, Piedmont, Aosta Valley, Calabria, Campania and Tuscany.

For the time being Rome is still considered a “yellow zone,” however, numbers are trending up, and experts predict that if cases continue to increase at a steady pace, it could only be a matter of days before Rome is moved into the growing “orange zone” category.

No bans have yet been declared on public worship, like there was during the spring quarantine. Churches remain open, and Masses are still happening every day of the week.

Whether religions will be left alone should the situation worsen remains to be seen, however, for the moment, it seems the Italian state is unlikely to engage in religious freedom battles such as those being fought in other countries over the suspension of public worship.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen