Vatican mandates COVID-19 vaccination, negative test for entry into Catholic city-state

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, August 15, 2017.
Pope Francis waves during his Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, August 15, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

People wishing to visit the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and home to Pope Francis, will have to show proof that they received a COVID-19 vaccination, that they have recovered from the virus or tested negative starting in October.

Following Pope Francis' acceptance, the president of the commission in charge of Vatican City Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello signed the mandate on Monday, according to a Sept. 20 update from Vatican News, the news arm of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. 

The mandate requires that starting on Oct. 1, entry into Vatican City will only be allowed to people who possess the Vatican, European or foreign "Green Pass," a certification document attesting that the person has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had previously had and recovered from COVID-19. Additionally, entry will be allowed for those who possess a negative COVID-19 test.

The Vatican News confirms that any person entering the Vatican solely to attend a liturgical celebration is exempt from the COVID-19 regulation but only for the duration of the liturgy. Participants must still wear masks, engage in temperature checks and practice social distancing before and during liturgies. 

Vatican City, a city-state governed by the Holy See surrounded by Rome in Italy, is often visited by tourists and recognized for offering a wide range of antique art, architecture and museums.

To receive entry into the city-state by Vatican Police, visitors, tourists or employees will have to provide a Green Pass, the documentation of certification provided in Italy to avoid the spread of COVID-19, proof of having recovered from COVID-19 or any international equivalent. The documentation of recovery, if provided, must be within the last 180 days. Or a negative COVID-19 test taken in the previous 72 hours can be shown for entry, according to the Catholic news outlet Crux.

Vatican News notes that the mandate follows a request made by Pope Francis during a Sept. 7 audience. 

The Pope expressed the importance of maintaining "the health and well-being of the working community while respecting the dignity, rights and fundamental freedoms of each of its members." He reportedly requested the governorate to "adopt every suitable measure to prevent, control and counteract the health emergency."

Vatican News tweeted that the decree stipulating added COVID-19 measures is being taken as part of "efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 within Vatican city-state."  

It has been reported that the policy will not include St. Peter's Basilica or Square. The Catholic News Service reports that it's unclear if the COVID-19 mandate will apply to the Pope's weekly general audiences and midday recitation of the Angelus on Sundays. 

The decree did not specify if Pope Francis' weekly events will be recognized as liturgies or treated as museum events in the Vatican.

Both weekly attractions already require masks and temperature checks. 

Last Thursday, the Italian government approved a mandate requiring every worker to show proof of vaccination starting Oct. 15. This requirement has also been reported as applying to travel, indoor dining, gym activities and movie theatres.

Despite COVID-19 testing in Italy costing $25, receiving a vaccine is free. In January, Vatican City became the first country to offer free COVID-19 vaccines. 

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