Three Pontifical Universities Accept Italy’s ‘Green Pass’ Protocol

The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum have confirmed they will require the COVID-19 plan for all staff and students.

Visitors have their COVID-19 certificates scanned Aug. 6 before entering the Vatican Museums after Italy made the Green Pass, which is an extension of the EU's digital COVID-19 certificate, mandatory to enter theaters, museums and indoor sports venues, or to eat indoors at restaurants.
Visitors have their COVID-19 certificates scanned Aug. 6 before entering the Vatican Museums after Italy made the Green Pass, which is an extension of the EU's digital COVID-19 certificate, mandatory to enter theaters, museums and indoor sports venues, or to eat indoors at restaurants. (photo: Andreas Solaro / AFP via Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — As Italy steps up its COVID-19 protocols on the unvaccinated with a “Green Pass” certificate needed to access universities and other public places, some of Rome’s pontifical universities are following suit and imposing similar rules on their students and staff.

From Sept. 1, the Italian government will require the pass — a certificate showing vaccination with at least one dose, a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours or recent recovery from the virus — for all university staff and students in the country, as well as for schoolteachers and staff when the new academic year begins. 

Since Aug. 6, the Green Pass — a QR code that can be registered on a smartphone app or on a piece of paper — has been mandatory to access certain venues such as museums, gyms, galleries and indoor restaurants. Customers and businesses that break the rules can face fines of 1,000 euros ($1,200), and businesses can be closed down for up to 10 days for repeated offenses. 

So far, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), the Pontifical Lateran University, and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum have confirmed they will follow Italy’s lead, mandating the Green Pass for all staff and students. 

They can be exempted for medical reasons at the Angelicum, but a spokesman at the Pontifical Lateran University told the Register they would not be permitting exemptions and instead will instruct unvaccinated staff and students to obtain the pass by simply taking a test.

Two university staff speaking to the Register on condition of anonymity expressed concern about these restrictions as they refuse to be vaccinated on ethical and safety grounds. To comply, they will have to be tested two or three times a week, with each test costing around 20 euros ($23). “It will cost me time and money,” said one of the staff members, although he believed the “freedom was worth it.” 

The costs mean students, especially from poor countries, will be more penalized by the restrictions should they not wish to be inoclulated. 

Two of the pontifical universities, the Angelicum and Regina Apostolorum, are located on Italian soil and so are obliged to abide by the nation’s laws, or they can be fined or even forced to close temporarily.

But as the Pontifical Gregorian University falls solely under the jurisdiction of the Holy See rather than the Italian state, it is free to make its own rules. A staff member of the Jesuit institution told the Register Aug. 27 that the university’s heads had yet to decide on a policy but predicted they would fully subscribe to a Green Pass mandate, as the Lateran has done. 

The Patristicum, better known as the Augustinianum, which is also on Vatican soil, has yet to agree on a policy.  However, the Pontifical North American College, which also enjoys extraterritorial status as part of Vatican City State, is not enforcing the pass but is strongly pushing  vaccination.

The Green Pass, also needed to enter many of Italy's Catholic churches that charge for entry, has drawn mass protests across the country. The Italian government insists the main reason for it is to reduce the chance of another national lockdown it can ill afford. 

The Vatican is imposing the Green Pass in some other locations as well, such as entrance to the Vatican Museums, in line with Italy mandating it for museums and galleries. The pass is not currently needed for the faithful to attend the Pope’s weekly general audiences, however, which over the past few weeks have been taking place in the Paul VI Hall. 

Elsewhere within the Vatican, staff are required to show the Green Pass to use the main service canteen. Pressure is also being placed on all Vatican personnel to receive the vaccine, although they’re no longer at risk of losing their jobs since the Vatican walked back a decree issued in February. 

Pope Francis has called the vaccine an “ethical duty” and recently appeared in a video appealing to people in Latin America to be vaccinated, saying it was an “act of love.”

In its December 2020 note on the anti-COVID vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It added that from an ethical point of view, the morality of the vaccinations depends on both the “duty to protect one’s health” and to “pursue the common good,” and in the “absence of other means” to prevent contagion, “the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.” 

The note also stressed that those who “for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.”

Nicolas Poussin, “Sts. Peter and John Healing the Lame Man,” 1655 — “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” ... He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” [Acts 3:6, 8].

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“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)