Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pope Francis keeps his distance at audience over COVID concerns

 Pope Francis stayed a safe distance from well-wishers at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, saying new rules aimed at curbing the coronavirus meant he had to hold back.


The 83-year-old pope resumed his weekly audiences in September after a six-month break because of the contagion, which has killed more than 36,200 people in Italy. However, with infections rising again, there was concern that Francis was getting too close to visitors.

Underscoring the growing problem, the Vatican said on Monday that four members of the Swiss Guards, the elite and colourfully dressed corps that protects the pope, had tested positive for COVID-19.

The pope, who does not wear a mask at the audiences, had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.

He sometimes breathes heavily after climbing steps and some Vatican officials have speculated that difficulty breathing may be a reason he does not wear a mask in large spaces.

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