World

Pope Francis holds 1st public audience in 6 months

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience in public for the first time in six months on Wednesday, smiling and chatting as he re-emerged from the constraints of the coronavirus lockdown.

The audience on Wednesday was held in a Vatican courtyard instead of St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis leaves following his first weekly general audience to readmit the public since the coronavirus outbreak, in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican, on Wednesday. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience in public for the first time in six months on Wednesday, smiling and chatting as he re-emerged from the constraints of the coronavirus lockdown.

The audience, at which the Pope announced a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, was held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace and gave him the public contact he thrives on.

Visitors had their temperatures checked as they entered the Vatican and nearly everyone among the audience of 500 or so — including Swiss Guards in ceremonial uniforms — wore masks. The public sat in seats arranged to ensure physical distancing.

"After so many months, we resume our encounters face to face and not screen to screen, face to face, and this is beautiful," he said to applause at the start of the audience.

Francis clearly enjoyed himself as he walked past guests who had pushed together behind barriers, frequently stopping to converse with them from a distance of one to two metres.

The crowd had to follow physical distancing guidelines during the general audience. (Vatican Media/Reuters)

The Pope last held an audience with a public crowd in early March. After that, the coronavirus pandemic forced him to hold virtual audiences transmitted from the official papal library over television or the internet, an experience he described as akin to being "caged."

He blessed children from a distance as he passed on the way to a dais to make his address.

Calls for peace for Lebanon

Francis appeared to be energized by the crowd — even though it was a far cry from the tens of thousands that can fill St. Peter's Square, where outdoor audiences are usually held.

Francis kissed a Lebanese flag handed to him by Lebanese priest Georges Breidi and bowed his head to say a silent prayer for the country, still reeling from last month's deadly port blast and rising sectarian tensions.

At the end of the audience he invited the priest to the front to hold up the flag as the Pope made an appeal for peace and dialogue in Lebanon.

He announced that Friday, Sept. 4 would be a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon and that he was sending his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Beirut on that day to represent him.

He invited members of other religions to take part.

"Lebanon cannot be abandoned to itself," Francis said, asking politicians and religious leaders to commit themselves with "sincerity and transparency" to reconstruct the country and for nations to help "without getting involved in regional tensions."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now