Italy's Catholic Church reintroduces handshakes during Mass

FILE PHOTO: A limited number of faithful attend an Easter Mass in the San Lorenzo in Lucina church, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Rome, Italy, April 4, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Catholic Church is reintroducing handshakes for the "sign of peace" during Mass as part of a wider relaxation of anti-COVID-19 measures.

"It will be possible to restore the usual form of exchanging the sign of peace," the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) said in a letter to bishops.

The letter, publicised by RAI public broadcaster and other Italian media on Saturday, was originally posted on CEI's website on Friday.

The "sign of peace" comes after the Lord's prayer and before the sacrament of the Holy Communion as a way for the faithful to express to each other their common faith.

At the height of the pandemic the gesture was abolished, while last year the CEI said it could resume but only through a look in the eyes or a bow of the head.

In its latest advice to bishops, the CEI called for continued precautions, such as inviting the faithful to sanitise their hands upon entering a church.

Italy is one the countries worst-hit by coronavirus, but restrictions have been eased recently. Face masks have not been compulsory on public transport since Oct. 1.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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