Pope Francis wore a mask for the first time in a public ceremony on Tuesday, when he and other religious leaders attended a prayer service for world peace.
The Pope wore a white mask during the service at the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Previously, he only wore masks in a car taking him to his weekly Vatican audiences.
He had been the subject of criticism, particularly on social media, for not wearing a mask to his general audience and sometimes being in relatively close contact with visitors.
Francis, 83, attended the service with other Christian leaders at the basilica, including Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.
Simultaneously in other places in Rome, Jews were praying in the city’s synagogue, and Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim leaders also prayed for peace.
The event took place as the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has steadily increased in Italy in recent weeks. Italy registered 10,874 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, up from 9,338 on Monday.
There was also a relatively small spike in the Vatican, where four members of the Swiss Guards, the elite and the body in the colorful clothing that protect the Pope, also tested positive for COVID-19.
The annual event was started by the late Pope John Paul and the Roman Catholic community of Sant ‘Egido in 1986. It has been reduced this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pope took off his mask as he read his speech, as did other leaders when they spoke, but put it back on when he finished speaking.
The event continued in the adjacent Campidoglio Square designed by Michelangelo, where Christian and non-Christian religious leaders read addresses, some containing messages to politicians.
“Peace is the priority of any policy,” said Francis. “God will call an account of those who have not sought peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts. He will call them to account for all the days, months and years of war endured by the peoples of the world. “
François said the pandemic had shown that “no one is saved alone”.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the world‘s Anglicans, was supposed to have attended the event but was unable to do so due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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