Giacomo Galeazzi reports for Vatican Insider (in English):
GIACOMO GALEAZZI - VATICAN CITY - The image of an empty tabernacle and the hosts being kept locked up elsewhere seems almost heretical. But in truth, keeping the Eucharist safe is well worth breaking away from the norm. There is nothing more sacred in the Church than the consecrated Host. Yet for months now, these violations and abuses have been taking place, one right after the other: from the two Muslims in Sondrio who received the host in their hands from a priest - only to put it in their pockets, to a barrage of sacrilegious thefts throughout Italy. It has become bad enough to justify a forceful and unusual act by a bishop, intended to set an example for others: keep the wafers in a protected place in the parish, just like people keep their jewels in a safe.
"It is correct to protect them from a serious threat – something decisive had to be done," is the talk heard in the Vatican. In short, the Holy See has approved the locking up of the hosts to prevent them from being stolen and used by satanic cults in their black masses. And even at highest levels of the Italian Conference of Bishops, a "hard line" against desecration finds full support. The canonist Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, current Director for the Pontifical Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, who has long occupied top positions at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and various Vatican dicasteries, supports the "exceptional measure" initiated by the Archbishop of Monreale, Salvatore Di Cristina. In the face of the escalation of sacrilegious thefts throughout Italy, it is right to hide the consecrated hosts in a secure location, and to leave the tabernacles empty and open to prevent their being broken into. In canon law, explained the cardinal of the Curia, the desecration of the Eucharist is the worst thing one can do - a crime punished with excommunication "latae sententiae" reserved to the Apostolic See. "It is evoked 'ipso facto', that is, for the very fact of having committed it, and excommunication is automatic," De Paolis explains to Vatican Insider.
Here is our translation of the Archbishop's letter:
Abp. Salvatore Di CristinaArchbishop of Monreale
Following the repeated sacrilegous acts in various towns in the Archdiocese, openly aiming at the profanation of the Most Blessed Eucharist, while deploring with boundless pain the dishonorable events, I feel bound to warmly invite all the brothers and sisters of our Church to reparatory prayer, to collective and personal penance, and to the permanent surveilance of the most sacred thing God entrusts to our protection by his goodness.
At the same time, in order to prevent such sacrilegous acts from being perpetrated, I order that, until further notice, the sacred eucharistic species be removed from all tabernacles, that will therefore remain empty in all churches.
Let instead turns of adoration be established, in which the Eucharist shall remain exposed for adoration by all those present and thereafter either sacramentally consumed or guarded in locations that are reserved and as safe as possible.
Given in Monreale [Sicily], at the Archiepiscopal See,on March 3, 2012