ROME – The Vatican is doubling down on its decision to mandate everyone who enters Vatican City has a pass showing they have either been fully vaccinated, tested negative, or have recently recovered from COVID-19, a decision first announced last week.
As of Oct. 1, employees who fail to provide one of the three will be banned from entering their offices and will be considered absent without cause – and without pay.
According to a decree signed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the decision announced last week extends to all personnel – from cardinals to lay people, head of dicasteries and the gardeners – who work in any Vatican offices.
The rules include outside collaborators, contractors, and even delivery personnel.
“Personnel without the necessary certifications may not enter the workplace and shall be considered absent without cause,” wrote Parolin in a decree published on Tuesday. “For the entire duration of the absence, no pay is due, except for social security and welfare withholdings, as well as family allowance.”
Verifying compliance with the new norm, the Vatican’s top official wrote, will be controlled by each office, “establishing the operating procedures for organizing such checks and identifying the persons responsible for ascertaining and challenging violations of obligations.”
Two weeks ago, the Italian government made it mandatory for all workers to show a Green Pass – proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test – as of Oct. 15, in an effort to boost its vaccination campaign. It’s already required for indoor activities such as dining, going to the gym or cinema, as well as for travelling. COVID-19 testing is paid by the individual in Italy, averaging $25. Vaccines, on the other hand, are free and still widely available.
The Vatican museums have already required a Green Pass for entry. Masses celebrated by Pope Francis or other priests will remain an exception to the two decrees requiring a Green Pass to enter the Vatican.
It still remains unclear if a Green Pass will be requested while the Wednesday papal audiences are held in the Paul VI Hall. For the Angelus prayer, held in St. Peter’s Square, no Green Pass will be requested since it is not required for outdoor events.
Vatican personnel who are not in possession of a Green Pass may, “as an alternative,” present a certificate of negative COVID-19 test result, but the decree says “charges related to the test are not borne” by the Holy See.
The only exception to these norms, according to Parolin’s decree, will be personnel within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State who, due to their jobs, were not in Rome when the Vatican provided all of its employees the Pfitzer vaccine for free, mainly Vatican diplomatic personnel.
In addition, when it comes to people visiting the Vatican after arriving in Rome from “countries with a high risk of contagion,” further restrictions can be mandated by the competent Vatican health authorities.
Vatican City became the first country to offer all of its citizens and employees free COVID-19 vaccines in January, with Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, being among the first in line to receive their jabs, due to their age.
Though widely advertised, it was not mandatory, and several employees opted out.
Francis has been a strong advocate for a just and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the world, especially to those most in need, and has described vaccination “an act of love.”
Some advocates, particularly in the United States but also in Europe, have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine, citing the use of cell lines derived from aborted fetuses in the development or testing of the vaccine. However, late last year the Vatican’s doctrine office said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.
On Sept. 24, the leader of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X surprised many by saying that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus “may sometimes be an eminently prudent act in the moral sense of the term,” while denouncing the promotion of coercive measures in favor of the vaccine as an “abuse of power.”