Pope Francis halts public audiences amid coronavirus surge

Pope Francis and Msgr. Luis Maria Rodrigo Ewart converse at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Pope Francis shares a word with Msgr. Luis Maria Rodrigo Ewart at the Vatican for the pontiff’s weekly general audience Wednesday.
(Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

The Vatican is ending Pope Francis’ general audiences with the public amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Italy and a confirmed infection at last week’s audience.

The Vatican said Thursday that Francis would resume livestreaming his weekly catechism lessons from his library in the Apostolic Palace, as he did during the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown during the spring and summer.

Francis resumed his Wednesday general audiences Sept. 2 in a Vatican courtyard with limited numbers of faithful.


But his decision not to wear a mask, especially when greeting prelates at the end of his audiences, has drawn criticism on social media.

The Vatican said Thursday that someone who attended the Oct. 21 audience has tested positive for the coronavirus, but it did not say if that person was among those who greeted the pontiff. A number of Swiss Guards at the Vatican have also tested positive.

Italy, which was the first country in Europe to be hit hard by COVID-19, is witnessing a resurgence of infections. Earlier this week, the government ordered all gyms and theaters to close and slapped an early-evening curfew on indoor dining.