Is there a patron saint for travelers during a pandemic?
Amidst the Vatican’s tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, pilgrimage plans to Vatican City are either being canceled or postponed. A recent decree from the Holy See mandated that everyone must wear FFP2 masks inside, stating that visitors planning to visit the gardens and Vatican museums must be vaccinated.
That can be a problem for some holdout Catholics, as the National Catholic Register reports:
As the president of Serra International, Michael Bragg had been looking forward this month to accompanying other Serrans on a trip to Rome that was to include a meeting with Pope Francis.
But his decision not to get a COVID-19 vaccine will keep him home.
Although Bragg, an attorney from Toledo, Ohio, was willing to submit to Italy’s quarantine and testing requirements for unvaccinated visitors, he was unable to surmount the Vatican City State’s vaccine mandate. He has been told by a Vatican official that there is no formal process for requesting a religious or conscientious exemption, only medical.
Bragg has declined to take the vaccine because those that are available have ties to aborted fetal cell lines. Furthermore, he said, he has recovered from COVID-19 and does not think he has a medical reason to get vaccinated.
COVID-19 travel restrictions are causing Catholics like Bragg to cancel or postpone their travel plans to pilgrimage sites in countries like Italy, France, Spain and Israel. In some cases, even those who have been vaccinated are finding the requirements to be daunting because of the testing they must undergo and documentation they have to provide.
In some cases, cancelled reservations are being quickly replaced by new reservations, implying the continued demand to visit the Vatican.
Bragg said, for instance, that although he and some of his fellow Serrans dropped out of the February trip, others took their places. The trip includes attendance at the “Symposium toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood” at the Vatican, a general audience with Pope Francis and a visit to the Pontifical North American College. Had Bragg gone on the trip, he also was to have had a private meeting with the Holy Father so that the Pope could bless a monstrance that had been given to Serra. Bragg now hopes this meeting can be rescheduled for later in the year should restrictions be lifted.
John Hale, president and co-owner of Corporate Travel Services in Northville, Michigan, said he, too, has noticed spaces on tours being swiftly filled when some travelers drop out. “People are very eager to travel,” he said.
Further, tour organizers are planning pilgrimages to other sites with Catholic significance where vaccination requirements are not mandatory such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Poland.
“People are really looking for a pilgrimage or retreat experience and are willing to think outside the box when it comes to having that experience,” [Catholic author and radio host Teresa ] Tomeo said, adding, “We are a pilgrimage people and need to relate, especially now.”
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