Pope greets public without mask at general audience

Vatican City, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- Pope Francis and some of his officials were seen without masks at the general audience despite face coverings being obligatory in Vatican City from Wednesday.

The service was held in the Paul VI Hall and not outside in the Apostolic Palace’s San Damaso courtyard due to rainy weather.

Hundreds of faithful attended the event and were wearing masks but a minimum distance between their chairs was also not maintained.

The pope has not appeared in public with a mask and has only been seen wearing one inside a vehicle that transported him to the San Damaso courtyard.

He was photographed with a face covering when he arrived for his general audience on 9 September but removed it as soon as he stepped outside the car.

On Wednesday as on other occasions, Francis did not avoid contact with the public by speaking with them without maintaining a minimum distance and kissed the hands of a priest who is a prison chaplain.

His assistant, who provided the pontiff with hand sanitizer after greeting the faithful, did not wear a mask either, nor did his security personnel or Vatican photographers.

Sitting at a distance from the pope during the audience, some members of the curia were also seen without face coverings.

Other Vatican officials have regularly been photographed wearing masks on previous occasions.

From Wednesday, masks are obligatory for all residents and workers in open and closed spaces in Vatican City.

Vatican authorities issued a directive on Tuesday to department heads setting out the measures for the Vatican City State and extraterritorial properties in Rome.

The document directed that masks should be worn “in the open air and in all workplaces where distance cannot always be guaranteed”.

It also strongly recommended that all other measures to restrict the virus are observed.

A similar measure is due to be introduced across Italy from Wednesday with masks already compulsory in some regions.

Around 400 priests in Catholic churches in Europe have died in recent months from coronavirus, including 121 in Italy, according to a report published last week by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.

The bishop of Caserta Giovanni D’Alise, of southern Italy, died on Sunday from Covid. EFE-EPA


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