Pope to return to virtual general audiences due to participant COVID-19 case

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis greets people as he arrives at Aula Paolo VI for the weekly general audience at the Vatican, October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis’ weekly general audiences, which had resumed with the public participating, will be moved back indoors and held virtually after one participant tested positive for the coronavirus, the Vatican said on Thursday.

A statement said the audiences will be held from the pope’s official private library, as they were during the height of the lockdown in Italy earlier this year.

In recent weeks, the public was allowed to return to the audiences, held first in a Vatican courtyard and then in a Vatican auditorium. But a participant at the Oct. 21 audience tested positive for the virus, the statement said, prompting the change.

As of next Wednesday, Nov. 4, the audiences will go back to being held in the library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace without public participation “in order to avoid any eventual future risk to the health of the participants.”

The Vatican’s decision coincides with a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Italy. Recently, 13 Swiss Guards and one person who lives in the residence that houses the pope tested positive for the coronavirus.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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