Most Vatican offices open, but adapting schedules in wake of pandemic

An empty Via della Conciliazione, just outside St. Peter’s Square, is seen March 12, 2020. Acknowledging how difficult it can be to adapt to restrictive measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, Pope Francis told people watching his morning Mass March 12 that it was for “our own good.” (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Vatican offices will remain open to ensure “essential services for the universal church,” but each office is being asked to evaluate the best ways to provide those services while observing health precautions and guidelines on safe distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The heads of the offices of the Roman Curia and of Vatican City State departments held an extraordinary meeting March 12 with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, presiding.

Afterward, the cardinal issued a notification asking every office “to identify essential services and positions with the aiming of assuring their minimum functioning.”

The plan did not go into effect March 13, however, because it was a Vatican holiday marking the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.

Work that involves material subject to “pontifical secret” or “sensitive data” — such as the kind common for the Secretariat of State or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — is not to be done remotely, Cardinal Parolin said.

When going to the office is necessary, he said, there should be “flexibility” for all employees and a rotation system to ensure maximum coverage of the workday.

And, the cardinal said, employees who work remotely should not exceed their normal daily or weekly work hours.

Some offices, however, were closed. The papal almoner’s office, which issues parchments attesting to papal blessings, announced it would close beginning March 14. However, the parchments still could be ordered online — — and would be shipped.

Payments for the parchments fund a variety of charitable giving, including assistance to individuals who need help paying utility bills or buying medication. The papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, said those in need or their pastors should leave a letter at the Sant’Anna entrance to Vatican City State. The cardinal also published his cellphone number for emergency needs.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the dicastery adopted “smart working” procedures already March 9, “facilitating work from home for most of its staff and, at the same time, guaranteeing all the essential services for which we are responsible.”

“Today is a holiday marking the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Francis,” he told Catholic News Service March 13, “but generally the executive staff are working at the office and keeping the work flowing.”

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