‘Caged’ Pope re­ceives guests from afar as virus takes its toll

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

ROME: Pope Fran­cis, who com­plained of feel­ing “caged” while ad­dress­ing the faith­ful by livestream be­cause of the new coro­n­avirus, re­ceived 30 French bish­ops on Mon­day at a healthy dis­tance. Pictures re­leased by the Vat­i­can showed the bish­ops seated in arm­chairs spaced a me­ter apart, in keep­ing with govern­ment reg­u­la­tions aimed at fight­ing an ill­ness that has killed 366 peo­ple in Italy in just over two weeks.

All were kept a good dis­tance away from the 83-yearold pon­tiff, who ad­dress the 30 bish­ops, a prelate from Peru and two for­eign am­bas­sadors to the Holy See by mi­cro­phone. But ev­ery­one still shook hands, a par­tic­i­pant said. “Af­ter 2:40 non-stop with Pope Fran­cis, I can as­sure you that he is in great shape,” Fran­cois Ja­colin, the bishop of Lu­con, said on Twit­ter.

The Ar­gen­tine-born pope has been out with a cold for more than a week, can­celling many of his public ap­pear­ances. Although he had a part of a lung re­moved when he was young, the pope has en­joyed a life of good health and fol­lows a rig­or­ous sched­ule. His un­usual ab­sence dur­ing the coro­n­avirus scare prompted im­me­di­ate spec­u­la­tion that he had con­tacted COVID-19.

A news­pa­per re­ported last week that the pope had been tested for the virus and came out clean, although the Vat­i­can never con­firmed it. On Sun­day, obey­ing in­struc­tion from the Ital­ian govern­ment, the pope de­liv­ered his tra­di­tional An­gelus Prayer and mes­sage to the world’s 1.3 bil­lion Catholics by livestream in­stead of from his win­dow fac­ing Saint Peter’s Square. The mea­sure was de­signed to keep the crowds down and the risk of con­ta­gion low.

But the pope still took a peek out the win­dow and waved af­ter he was done, draw­ing a cheer from a few faith­ful who had still turned out to watch the pope’s ap­pear­ance on a gi­ant screen. “It is a lit­tle strange, this An­gelus Prayer to­day, with a pope in a cage in a li­brary,” Pope Fran­cis re­marked Sun­day. “But I see you - I am close to you,” he added. Fa­mous for his ge­nial­ity and gre­gar­i­ous style, the pope will sit down and record an­other livestream to­day, re­plac­ing his weekly “gen­eral au­di­ence” ap­pear­ance on Saint Peter’s Square. —AFP

VAT­I­CAN CITY: Pope Fran­cis gath­ers his thoughts while cel­e­brat­ing a daily mass alone in the Santa Marta chapel at the Vat­i­can, as part of pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures against the spread of the new coro­n­avirus COVID-19. —AFP

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