Faithful return to Vatican for papal prayers

By Cristina Cabrejas

Vatican City, May 31 (efe-epa).- Small indicators of normality returned to the Vatican City on Sunday as worshippers gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first time after months of being ordered to stay away as part of measures to contain the coronavirus.

Pope Francis delivered the Regina Coeli prayers to the socially-distanced crowd.

“Dear brothers and sisters, good day,” he began.

“Today the square is open and we can return. And it’s a pleasure,” he said from the window of the papal study. It was his first service from there for almost three months. During the coronavirus lockdown in force in Italy and the Vatican City, he delivered his addresses via livestream videos.

With tourism in Rome still on hold, only a few dozen people — the majority wearing masks — made it to the square to see the pope. Security officials managed the crowd to ensure that health and safety protocols were met.

Francis was received with applause.

Among the crowd was Javier, a Spanish national who lives in Rome. He told Efe he had taken advantage of the lack of crowds to take a stroll through the Vatican, see the pope and eat at a nearby restaurant to “lift the local economy a bit.”

Mónica Herrero, another Spanish resident of Rome, said she felt part of a “historic moment” and that it had given her hope after difficult months.

Francis delivered the Pentecost mass earlier in the morning to a small crowd of worshipers in the basilica. He warned against the emergence of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism during the pandemic.

There have been 12 Covid-19 cases detected in the Vatican City since the outbreak began.

On 8 March, as Italian lockdown rules came into force, Francis moved his Angelus prayers to the Apolistic Palace, from where his addresses were broadcast online.

His General Audience events at St. Peter’s Square, which attracts large crowds, will remain on hold until at least September.

The Vatican Museums are set to reopen to the public on Monday after three months of closure. They are a key element of the Vatican economy.

“Today’s Angelus prayer is a little strange,” Francis said when he gave his first remote sermon on 8 March.

During the lockdown, photographers snapped images of the pope peeking out from his office window and blessing the empty square after his prayers.

Following the Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday, Francis drew attention to the impact of Covid-19 on the Amazon region.

“I plead that they may not lack health care,” he said.

Marking Pentecost Sunday, the pope said that the Church and the people needed the Holy Spirit to remain united when exiting the pandemic.

“We do not leave a crisis like this more equal than before. We leave better or worse,” he said.

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