Pope to give public blessings via video because of coronavirus outbreak

Pope Francis wipes his nose during the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent on February 26, 2020, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Pope Francis will deliver his next two public blessings via video to prevent crowds from gathering as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

The Vatican said in a statement Saturday that the pope will not hold his traditional Sunday noon blessing from a window over St. Peter’s Square, as is tradition, but that it will be streamed from the library in the Apostolic Palace. The Wednesday audience will be handled in the same way.

Francis has also stopped celebrating morning Mass before invited guests at the chapel in the Vatican hotel where he lives, indicating his contact has been extremely limited in an apparent effort to prevent his infection.

At 83, recovering from a cold and with part of one lung removed from a respiratory infection when he was a young man, Francis would be at risk of serious complications if he were to catch the virus. Italy has recommended that elderly people remain at home.

The measures come after the Vatican confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday.

The pope appeared from a window high above St. Peter’s Square for last Sunday’s blessing, pausing twice for short bouts of coughing. He similarly was seen coughing and blowing his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass just days earlier.


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