VATICAN CITY: Italy and the Vatican are opening a new post-lockdown phase in the virus emergency, with churches resuming public Masses after a sharp confrontation between the Italian government and the country's bishops over worshiping in the era of coronavirus.
Guards in hazmat suits took the temperature of the faithful entering St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Francis celebrated an early morning Mass for a handful of people in a side chapel to commemorate the centenary of the birth of St. John Paul II.
Across town, the Rev. Jose Maria Galvan snapped on a latex glove and face mask before distributing Communion to the dozen parishioners attending the 7:20 am. Mass at his Sant'Eugenio parish. "Before I became a priest I was a surgeon, so for me gloves are normal. I'm dexterous (with gloves) so the hosts don't get away from me," he joked afterward.
It was all part of Italy's next step in emerging from the West's first coronavirus lockdown, with commercial shops reopening and barbers and bartenders going back at work. But they are doing so under strict rules that regulate everything from how you get your coffee to the way you pray.