Pope's joy as he delivers first public weekly audience in six months

Maskless Pope’s joy as he delivers his first weekly audience in public for six months and says: ‘It’s nice not to talk in front of a camera’

  • Pope Francis, who was not wearing a mask, greeted a baby, signed a book and chatted with children as the faithful lined up to greet him on Wednesday
  • He held first public weekly general audience in public for six months in the San Damaso Courtyard, Vatican
  • Pontiff told audience he was happy to see them as they sat on socially-distanced chairs during his address

A maskless Pope Francis today expressed his joy at being once again among his flock as he delivered his first weekly general audience in public for six months.   

He greeted a baby, signed a book, donned a hat someone gave him and chatted with children who had painted him pictures as the faithful – all in masks, unlike the vaccinated pontiff – lined up to greet him.

‘I am happy to resume this face to face because I tell you one thing – it is not nice to talk in front of nothing, in front of a camera,’ Francis told them as they sat on socially-distanced chairs to listen to his audience in the San Damaso Courtyard at the Vatican.

A maskless Pope Francis today expressed his joy at being once again among his flock as he delivered his first weekly general audience in public for six months. Pictured: Pope Francis received a hat during the general audience on Wednesday

The 84-year-old pontiff greeted the faithful – who were wearing masks – as he arrived in the St. Damasco Courtyard at the Vatican on Wednesday

Pope Francis blessed a baby as he arrived at The Vatican on Wednesday as he was surrounded by the faithful 

A little boy reaches out to pass a drawing to the Pope, who looks very impressed with the boy’s artwork, on Wednesday

‘I am happy to resume this face to face because I tell you one thing – it is not nice to talk in front of nothing, in front of a camera,’ Francis told them as they sat on socially-distanced chairs to listen to his audience in the San Damaso Courtyard at the Vatican

The 84-year-old pope abandoned his Wednesday public audiences when coronavirus swept across Italy early last year, instead delivering them via video link from the Apostolic Library.

They resumed in September and October – not in St Peter’s Square but in the courtyard with a limited crowd of 500 – only to stop once again due to a fresh wave of infections.

The courtyard was not full Wednesday, but the 300 or so people who came expressed their joy at seeing the pope up close.

There was a cheer when he arrived inside the courtyard in a blue Ford. ‘Pope Francis, we’re with you!’ they shouted, standing on chairs to get a better view as he passed by.

 The courtyard was not full Wednesday, but the 300 or so people who came expressed their joy at seeing the pope up close

The 84-year-old pope abandoned his Wednesday public audiences when coronavirus swept across Italy early last year, instead delivering them via video link from the Apostolic Library. Pictured: The Pope signs a book of a worshipper on Wednesday

There was a cheer when he arrived inside the courtyard. ‘Pope Francis, we’re with you!’ they shouted, standing on chairs to get a better view as he passed by

Pope Francis is handed a handmade hat by one of the faithful on Wednesday outside the Vatican

The pontiff smiles as he receives flowers by worshippers during his first public weekly address in six months on Wednesday

‘It was lovely, to see him so close – he wasn’t in a hurry, he took his time,’ said a nun from Rome who gave her name as Helene.

‘He was happy to be with the people.’

Thomas Viallon, 34, from Paris, added: ‘It was the first time weve seen the pope. We were really close. He seemed very close to the people.’     

The pope – who, alongside the Vatican delegation, has received a Covid-19 vaccination – began his ‘marathon’ month of prayer at the beginning of May with a special service in St Basilica where he prayed for the end of the pandemic.  

The pontiff asked for the return of what he called ‘a horizon of hope’, including a scenario in which scientists conquer the coronavirus, at the service attended by 200 people.

Pope Francis is in his element as he addresses the faithful during his first general Audience in public in six months

The pope (far right) addresses the audience, who are sat on socially distanced chairs, at the San Damasco courtyard on Wednesday

Pope Francis smiles as he waves to the crowd who have travelled to see the pontiff in person for the first time in six months

Every day for the rest of May, Catholic sanctuaries in the world dedicated to Mary will take turns holding a similar rosary service. 

Francis will hold the month’s final rosary recitation in the Vatican Gardens at the end of May with a specially-broadcast prayer.

He announced the ‘marathon’ month of prayer throughout May in late April and encouraged Catholics around the world to dedicate the 31 days to praying for the end of the virus which was killed more than three million people.  

‘The initiative will involve all the Shrines of the world in a special way, so that they might encourage the faithful, families, and communities to recite the Rosary to pray for an end to the pandemic,’ the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization said in a statement at the time.  

The move came after the Pope marked Easter Sunday with an address with called for vaccines to be shared with poorer countries. 

He also said he prays that the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions will be lifted soon.   

The pope – who, alongside the Vatican delegation, has received a Covid-19 vaccination – began his ‘marathon’ month of prayer at the beginning of May with a special service in St Basilica where he prayed for the end of the pandemic  

The pontiff asked for the end of the ‘hard trial’ and the return of what he called ‘a horizon of hope’, including a scenario in which scientists conquer the coronavirus, at the service on May 1 in the St Basilica

‘Dear brothers and sisters, once again this year, in various places, many Christians have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and, at times, without being able to attend liturgical celebrations,’ he said.

‘We pray that those restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely.’

In March, the pontiff marked a second Palm Sunday during the pandemic and warned ‘the Devil is taking advantage of the crisis to sow distrust, desperation and discord’. 

The pontiff traditionally leads a Palm Sunday procession through St Peter’s Square in front of tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists clutching olive branches and braided palms before celebrating an outdoor Mass.

But as the Pope did last spring, just weeks after the Covid-19 outbreak erupted in Italy and the country became the epicentre of the European epidemic, he led the solemn service that begins Holy Week inside St Peter’s Basilica. 

In March, Pope Francis also ordered cardinals to take a pay cut and reduced the salaries of most other Vatican clerics as the coronavirus pandemic hits the Holy See’s income.

Francis issued a decree introducing the proportional cuts starting on April 1.

The pontiff has often insisted that he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times, even as the Vatican continues to run up deficits.

The virus has wreaked havoc across the world, with many countries facing soaring cases and deaths. 

The latest resurgence of infections, especially in Brazil and India, comes despite vaccination efforts. 

Health officials blame more infectious variants that were first detected in the UK and South Africa, along with public fatigue with lockdowns and other restrictions.   

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