Pope Francis will resume “limited public weekly audiences” early next month, the Vatican announced Wednesday, six months after the head of the Catholic Church halted the practice because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wednesday events will be held in a closed courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where a maximum of 500 seats will be placed, rather than in St Peter’s Square, a Vatican spokesman told AFP.
Entry into the courtyard will open without reservation two hours before the audience, which will start at 09:30 (0730 GMT), the Vatican official said.
Jorge Bergoglio – the birth name of Francis – last hosted an audience on February 26, as the grip of the COVID-19 disease closed around Italy.
Then the Argentinian pope, who is fond of direct contact, shook hands with dozens of faithful and hugged a few children massed in the front row of the audience of some 12,000 people.
At the time, few were wearing face masks for protection.
Shortly afterwards, the pope cut back his schedule because of a “cold”, raising questions about his health.
So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 35,000 people in Italy since it was first detected, according to the latest official statistics.