Vatican City, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:00 pm
After nine weeks of public general audiences, Pope Francis’ weekly gathering will again take place behind closed doors, the Vatican said Thursday.
The decision to move back to a livestream-only format was made after at least one person in attendance at the pope’s Oct. 21 audience was discovered to have been positive for COVID-19, according to the Vatican.
Starting Wednesday, Nov. 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.”
From Sept. 2, members of the public were permitted again to attend his weekly audience at the Vatican, 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 virus’ spread.
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 last 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.