People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pray in John Paul II chapel in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican…
People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pray in John Paul II chapel in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in the day of its reopening which coincided with John Paul II 100th anniversary of birth, May 18, 2020.

ROME - Churches across Italy prepared to reopen Monday with new rules at the end of a more than 2-month lockdown due to Covid-19. Pope Francis celebrated his last streaming morning mass  to mark the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II. 

After intense preparations inside the churches, the faithful are returning to services  Monday, as the country emerges from a very rigid lockdown due to the coronavirus. Saint Peter’s Basilica also opens its doors again after Pope Francis celebrated an early morning mass to mark the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II. 

Speaking in front of the tomb of John Paul II, Francis recalled how the Polish pope was a good pastor who visited the people all over the world and spoke of the three traits that characterized him most. 

“Prayer, closeness to the people and love for justice,” Francis said.   

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pope John Paul II, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, May 18, 2020.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Pope Francis’ early morning masses have been live streamed  but this morning’s was to be the last. In efforts to avoid crowds,  It. Is still unclear whether the pope will continue to hold his Wednesday general audiences and Sunday addresses to the faithful from his private library at the Vatican.  

Churchgoers will have to follow new rules when they attend services from now on as Italy still has not completely emerged from the coronavirus emergency.

The president of Italy’s bishop’s conference, Gualtiero Bassetti, said everyone must adopt all those measures that are a form of love and respect for others, wearing protective masks and avoiding close contact. 

In church, social distancing will have to be maintained whether sitting or standing. Holy water fonts in the churches will remain empty and there will be no exchanging of the sign of peace. Great care will have to be taken when distributing the communion wafer which will be transferred into the worshipers'  hands by a masked celebrant wearing gloves.