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Priests tell parishioners to bless their own houses

Overworked priests near Milan have devised a 'blessing kit' to make sure families get their traditional holiday benediction.

Over two thousand do-it-yourself kits were distributed to parishioners in the Ronḍ-Torretta neighbourhood of Sesto San Giovanni, a satellite community near Milan where three priests minister to some 17,000 residents.

"We divvied up the area in two, alternating the blessings done by priests," said Fr Massimo Pavanello. "That way we don't have to rush and can get to know our residents a bit better."

Permission to hand out the kit, which consists of a vial of Holy water and prayer instructions, didn't require any special dispensation. Don Pavanello is quick to point out a house blessing has the same value as prayers said before a meal.

Observers suggest this kind of hands-on religion is likely to become more frequent in Italy as fewer people take on the vocation. Despite a recent slight increase, the number of priests and nuns has decreased by 50% over the last 20 years.

Diocesi di Milano