Reopening of Saint Peter marks the first step for Catholics in Italy

ROME: Opens its doors to visitors on Monday, marking a relative return to normality in the Vatican and beyond in Italy, where most commercial activities will resume.

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

In the face of much opposition, even from, churches in Rome They were closed at the beginning of the emergency in early March.

Most, however, opened shortly thereafter, with the entrance reserved for prayer only.

I share the joy of those communities that can finally come together as liturgical assemblies, a sign of hope for the whole of society, Francis said during his live prayer on Sunday.

The blockade of Italy not only extinguished most of the commercial activities in the country, but also radically disrupted the personal lives of Italians, including attendance at mass.

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

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

Francis, however, will celebrate a private mass on Monday, broadcast by video, in front of the grave of John Paul II, on the centenary of the birth of the Polish-born pontiff.

In Milan, the Duomo Cathedral will hold mass at 10:30 GMT. On Friday, the cathedral said it had inserted worn devices around the neck that emit a soft beep, flicker and vibrate if visitors get too close.

In preparation for the reopening of San Pedro, the world's largest Catholic church was sanitized on Friday, with workers in protective suits and masks spraying the 23,000-square-meter (250,000-square-foot) site surface.

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, are expected to follow a recommendation by Italy's interior ministry that limits attendance at religious celebrations in closed places of worship to 200 people.

In the tens of thousands of churches in Italy, Catholics will be able to attend not only Masses but also weddings and funerals, provided they comply with a number of measures, including wearing masks and sitting or standing well apart.

More than 800,000 business activities that have been blocked since the prime minister imposed restrictions on March 9 should be able to reopen on Monday, said Confcommercio, Italy's largest trade association.

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