By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With a view toward staying open and protecting people from a new increase in COVID-19 infections, the Vatican mandated that all employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus or show proof of having recovered from it.

The previous Vatican rule, requiring a negative COVID-19 test every 48 hours for unvaccinated employees, was not part of the new rules published by the Vatican Secretariat of State Dec. 23 and with immediate effect.

Vatican employees who cannot prove they have been vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus will not be allowed to go to work and will not be paid, although their benefits and family allowances will continue, according to the text signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

The Vatican, which runs its own health service for employees, does recognize that some employees have a medical reason for not being able to be vaccinated. Other than that, “the evaluation of the elements for possible exemption” from the mandate will be evaluated by the Vatican Secretariat of State in consultation with the health service.

The updated norms cited “the continuation and worsening of the current health emergency and the need to adopt appropriate measures to counter it and ensure the safe conduct of activities.”

As of Oct. 1, the Vatican was requiring a “green pass” or equivalent of all employees. The pass verified vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 48 hours; those provisions now apply also to all “visitors and users” of Vatican offices and services, according to the new norms.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said that while the norms apply to tourists visiting the Vatican Museums, they do not apply to Catholics who enter St. Peter’s Basilica for a Mass.

A separate, almost identical vaccine mandate for employees of Vatican City State was signed Dec. 16 by Archbishop Fernando VĂ©rgez Alzaga, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; his text said Pope Francis asked for such rules during an audience Dec. 10.

Cardinal Parolin’s text also stated that beginning Jan. 31, any Vatican employee in regular contact with the public must have received a booster shot to continue working.

The new rules came the day after the Vatican press office issued a statement reaffirming “the Holy See’s favorable position on vaccines.”

“The Holy Father has called vaccination ‘an act of love,’ as it is aimed at protecting people against COVID-19. In addition, he recently reiterated the need for the international community to further intensify cooperation efforts so that all people have prompt access to vaccines, not as a matter of convenience, but of justice,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, with the omicron variant increasing the number of infections in Italy, the government announced a series of new rules that were to be finalized late Dec. 23, including: a return to wearing masks outdoors throughout the country; requiring passengers on public transportation and spectators in theaters to wear FFP2 masks, the European equivalent of an N95 mask in the United States; and requiring the “super green pass” — signifying having had the full vaccination cycle or having recovered recently from COVID-19 — in order to eat indoors at a restaurant.