Vatican and beyond in Italy rejoice as churches reopen

Saint Peter ’ s Basilica throws its doors open to visitors on Monday , marking a relative return to normality at the Vatican and beyond in Italy , where most business activity is set to resume .

Public masses also resume throughout the predominantly Catholic country after a two -month hiatus , while restaurants , bars, cafes, shops and hairdressers, among other businesses , are all expected to reopen .

In the face of much opposition, including from Pope Francis , churches in Rome were shuttered at the beginning of the coronavirus emergency in early March .
Most , however , opened shortly thereafter , with entry reserved for prayer only .

“ I share the joy of those communities who can finally reunite as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for all society , ” Francis said on Sunday during his live-streamed prayer.
Italy’ s lockdown not only extinguished most business activity in the country, but radically disrupted Italians ’ personal lives , including attending mass.

Francis has been livestreaming mass from a chapel at his residence inside the Vatican City .

The Argentine pontiff is not yet expected to lead any public religious ceremonies either in the basilica , which can accommodate 60 , 000 people , or in Saint Peter ’ s Square , as the Vatican seeks to avoid crowds .

Francis will, however , celebrate a private mass on Monday , broadcast by video, in front of the tomb of John Paul II, on the 100 th anniversary of the birth of the Polish – born pontiff.

In Milan, the Duomo cathedral will conduct mass at 10: 30 GMT .

On Friday, the cathedral said it had introduced gadgets worn around the neck that beep softly , flash and vibrate if visitors approach too closely to one another .

– Disinfection –
In preparation for the reopening of Saint Peter ’ s , the largest Catholic church in the world was disinfected on Friday, with workers in full protective suits and masks spraying down the surface of the 23 , 000 – square metre (250 , 000 – square foot) site .

The Vatican State , an independent enclave in the heart of Rome , has applied the same anti – virus measures as Italy, where the official death toll from the virus stands at nearly 32, 000 .

The basilica , as well as three other papal basilicas , is expected to follow a recommendation from Italy’ s interior ministry limiting attendance at religious celebrations in enclosed places of worship to 200 people .

Across Italy’ s tens of thousands of churches , Catholics will be able to attend not only masses but also weddings and funerals, provided they abide by a series of measures , including wearing masks and sitting or standing well spaced apart .

More than 800 , 000 commercial activities which have been under lockdown since Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed restrictions on March 9 should be able to reopen on Monday , said Confcommercio , Italy’ s largest business association .

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