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Pope Makes Public Prayer Service

Since early March, Pope Francis has continued to conduct general audiences from the library of the Apostolic Palace, but has made no public addresses or prayer services, due to the pandemic. On Sunday, May 31, although Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica with only clergy in attendance, shortly after its conclusion, the Pope began a recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer from the window of his private study overlooking Saint Peter’s Square. Since the reading of the prayer was announced beforehand, police were on hand to guarantee safe access and ensure that all those in attendance practiced social distancing measures. It marked the first time in nearly three months that the Pope could look out from his window and see anything other than what appears in this photograph – an empty Saint Peter’s Square.

Ancient Mosaic Discovered Under Vineyard

Archaeologists have discovered an exquisitely preserved Roman mosaic under grapevines near Verona, after nearly a century of searching. It has been known for many years that there are Roman artifacts in this part of the famous wine region. The brightly-colored geometric design was unearthed outside Negrar di Valpolicella near Verona. It is thought to have been part of a villa that archaeologists first began looking for in 1922. A survey and some initial digging took place almost a century ago, but until now, no find has matched the impressive scale or importance of the floor. The mosaic was found several feet below the surface, under a row of grapevines. Verona’s municipal archaeologist Gianni de Zuccato said the moment they came across the red, brown, grey and white mosaic was “like entering a time machine.” He believes the floor dates from 250 to 400 AD. He also believes that the blueprint of the ancient villa is over 3,000 square feet, but the entire excavation area is closer to 11,000 square feet.

Green Light to Serie A

After months of inactivity, professional soccer is about to return to Italy. The traditional Coppa Italia will begin on June 13th. The knockout series, first played 98 years ago, has not missed an annual appearance on the calendar in over 60 seasons. Following the Coppa, Serie A matches are set to resume during the weekend of June 20th. “Italy has started to return to normal life again, it is only right that football (soccer) should do the same,” said Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora. He added that the government’s Technical and Scientific Committee has agreed to the health protocol proposed by Italian football leagues. No top-flight matches in Italy have been played since March 9. League officials have admitted that scheduling will be a bit of a nightmare, at least initially and that matches will take place without spectators. Team personnel will be tested regularly and there will be a two-week quarantine period for teams if anyone tests positive for the virus.

Italy Slams Swedish Slight

The Italian government has criticized Sweden’s state epidemiologist after comments in which he said the Swedish healthcare system “should have done better than Italy” in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Italian Ambassador Mario Cospito stated Italy’s healthcare system is “unanimously considered among the best in the world” and that those working in it deserved “respect and admiration in Italy and abroad.” The Swedish state epidemiologist had said “We had really thought that in a modern, wealthy society in Sweden, we should be able to protect our elderly. It didn’t need to be as it appeared in Italy, where they have less resources for this.” To better illustrate the point made by the irritated Italian authorities, in the international ranking of healthcare systems, Italy was judged the second best in the world, while Sweden is not even ranked within the top 20 nations, coming in at 23rd.

New High Speed Train Service

Now that travel is again permitted between Italian regions, rival train companies Trenitalia and Italo have each announced new direct high-speed services between Turin and Reggio Calabria beginning this month. The new service from the north to the south had its inaugural run by Trenitalia on June 3rd. The first service by Italo is scheduled for June 14th. Trenitalia announced that it plans to double the number of trains in operation from early June and will be providing all passengers with a “safety kit” including mask, hand sanitizer, gloves and disposable headrest.

Book Shops Push for Cultural Bonus

Now that Italian booksellers have reopened, they have urged the government to extend the 500-euro cultural bonus payment plan in order to support the country’s bookshops and authors. The program awards this sum to 18-year-olds upon graduation. The money is to be spent on cultural pursuits, including books. Italian booksellers have urged the government to extend that plan nationally to all age groups to help save bookshops and support authors. The publishers’ and booksellers’ group also asked for a range of measures, including tax deductions on the purchase of books and improvements to the country’s library system.