Pope Francis attended at an interreligious prayer service near Rome’s city hall yesterday wearing a mask, his first extensive use of a mask during a public event. Source: NCR Online.
The event was his first public engagement with other religious leaders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Francis has previously used similar masks while being driven to his weekly general audiences at the Vatican, but had come under criticism, especially on social media, for removing his mask before those audiences.
The Vatican had previously noted that even while not wearing a mask, Francis had largely maintained social distance from those taking part in the audiences, which have been scaled down to adhere to Italy’s strict coronavirus prevention protocols.
Yesterday’s event was an annual peace service organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, started inside Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli before moving to the nearby Campidoglio Square.
Among others taking part were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I; Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the council of the Protestant Church in Germany; Rabbi Haïm Korsia, the chief rabbi of France; and Shoten Minegishi, a Soto Zen Buddist monk.
Also present were a number of other dignitaries, including Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi.
All participants appeared to be wearing masks, which is now required by Italian law when outside your home except for those with specific medical needs.
Francis did not mention the pandemic in a homily during a prayer service inside the Rome basilica, but offered instead a reflection on the temptation to try to “save yourself” without thinking of the needs of others.
Francis wears mask during public event in Rome for first time (By Joshua McElwee, NCR Online)