Pope Francis holds first mass for live congregation since lockdown

Vatican City, May 18 (EFE).- Pope Francis held on Monday a mass in the presence of worshippers for the first time in over two months, when the coronavirus pandemic forced Italy and the Vatican into lockdown.

The service marked the centenary year of the birth of Pope John Paul II and took place in St Peter’s Basilica, which opened its doors to visitors later in the day for the first time since 10 March, when Italy ordered the closure of businesses and landmarks, rules the Vatican also adopted.

The Pope held Easter celebrations and daily morning masses via videoconference.

From Monday, Italy has permitted religious gatherings so long as they are held in accordance with strict health and safety protocol in place as the country tentatively transitions out of its lockdown.

Around 30 people attended the mass at the chapel of John Paul II, some of whom did not wear gloves or masks, which is obligatory in Italian churches and cathedrals.

Cardinals Angelo Comastri and Konrad Krajewski and Monsignors Piero Marini and Jan Romeo Pawlowski celebrated with the pope.

There was also a small choir of nuns, who had to observe social-distancing protocol. Choirs are prohibited for the time being across the city-state border in Italy.

Monday’s morning mass was also the last one due to be livestreamed.

The Swiss Guard were on duty to ensure that visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica were complying with the health and safety protocol in place.

Lines to access the landmark began to form early in the morning.

Visitors were not allowed to enter the square and their temperatures were registered before they went into the building.

In his homage to the late Polish pope, Francis told those present and viewers “Pope Saint John Paul II was a man of God because he prayed and prayed a lot despite the arduous work of trying to guide the Church.”

“He knew well that the first task of the bishop is to pray.

“He was not separated from the people,” he said, adding that he traveled the world to find them and get close to them.

The Argentine pontiff said Karol Józef Wojtyla, who died in April 2005, was a man who wanted “justice, social justice, justice for the people.”EFE


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