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Italian churches resume mass for first time in two months

Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican reopened to visitors on Monday after being closed for over two months under Italy's lockdown orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Italian churches resume mass for first time in two months
A cleaner disinfects a church in Rome in preparation for reopening. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

A handful of visitors queued up, observing social distancing rules, and were watched by police officers wearing face masks before having their temperatures taken to enter the church, which has been closed since March 10th.

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.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Italy from May 18th

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.


A socially distanced service on May 18th. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Francis has been live-streaming 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 100th anniversary of the birth of the Polish-born pontiff.

VIDEO: Millions watch Andrea Bocelli sing in Milan's empty Duomo

In Milan, the Duomo cathedral will conduct mass at 11:30 am. 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.

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 site.


Disinfecting the Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore church in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

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.

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ROME

‘I love Italy’: Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

US actor Jason Momoa apologised after fans reacted angrily to him taking snaps in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel despite a strict photography ban.

'I love Italy': Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

Anyone who has visited the Sistine Chapel will recall the firm and repeated warnings from security staff: “no photos, please”.

But there has been an outcry in Italy and beyond after ‘Aquaman’ star Jason Momoa apparently paid to be allowed to disregard this rule on a recent visit to the Vatican City with friends.

Momoa. 42, is currently in Rome shooting ‘Fast X’, the 10th installment in the ‘Fast & Furious’ film saga.

He posted snaps and videos of himself on May 9th posing below the famous frescoes painted by Michelangelo with friends and what appear to be Vatican Museums staff.

But disgruntled fans quickly pointed out in the comments that visitors are typically forbidden from taking photos or videos in the chapel.
 
“We can’t take pics but celebrities can, nothing against Jason (I adore him) but it’s not fair,” one person wrote.

“All I remember about that place was ‘no photos please’,” another person wrote.

Others took issue with a video showing him reaching over a rope barrier to touch a sculpture. 

“I cringed when he rubbed his hands on the art … not cool, dude,” one person commented.

On Saturday, Momoa posted another video in which he apologised for causing offence.
 
“If you ever thought I disrespected your culture, that wasn’t my intention,” he said in the video, in which he appears shirtless in the gym apparently following a workout.
 
He said he had given the chapel “a wonderful donation to bring my friends and crew because we only had a couple days off to go experience these places.”

“I would never want to do anything to disrespect someone’s culture,” he added.

“So if I did, I apologise and it wasn’t my intention. And I definitely paid to have that private moment and gave a nice donation to the church.”

The Sistine Chapel and the rest of the Vatican Museums complex is currently open to visitors as normal, following closures and limitations on visitor numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Regular online tickets cost €17 (around $21) via the official Vatican website. It is also possible to book a two-hour private tour of the Vatican Museums for €78 per person – though the booking website doesn’t mention any exceptions to the photography ban in the Sistine Chapel.

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