After nine weeks of public general audiences, Pope Francis’ weekly gathering will again take place behind closed doors, the Vatican announced yesterday. Source: CNA.
The decision to move back to a livestream-only format was made after at least one person in attendance at the Pope’s October 21 audience was discovered to have been positive for COVID-19, according to the Vatican.
Starting next Wednesday, November 4, Francis will give his general audience catechesis and greetings via live video from his study in the Apostolic Palace, “in order to avoid any future health risks for participants”.
Members of the public were permitted again to attend his weekly audience at the Vatican from September 2, after a more than six-month break.
He had been livestreaming the Wednesday audience from his study since March, when the coronavirus outbreak led Italy and other countries to impose lockdowns to slow down the spread of the virus.
Unlike general audiences before the COVID-19 pandemic, which were held in the public square in front of St Peter’s Basilica, the first meetings back with the public were held in a smaller interior courtyard of the Vatican, with a capacity for around 500 or so socially distanced and masked participants.
At these encounters, Pope Francis sat close to attendees, many of whom he would spend a long time greeting individually before and after the event.
In the past few weeks, the audiences have been held instead in the Vatican’s larger Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and Pope Francis has kept his distance from pilgrims.