Pope Francis Delivers First Public Service From Balcony Since Lockdown

The service came just days before the country plans to reopen its borders to Europe.

Pope Francis
Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty

Pope Francis resumed Sunday services from the Vatican over the weekend for the first time in almost three months due to the coronavirus pandemic — a sign of optimism ahead of Italy opening its borders on June 15.

A few hundred people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, obeying social distancing rules and wearing face masks. The Pope delivered most of his Sunday service from his library, via webcam, according to Vatican News, that was broadcast onto several large screens placed around the square. When it came time for the silent blessing, the Pope stepped out onto his balcony and looked over the crowds gathered.

man taking photo St. Peter's square
Anadolu Agency/Getty

The Pope said he will continue with another service from his balcony next Sunday.

The night before his Sunday service, Pope Francis also held a special coronavirus service for more than 100 people at a grotto in the Vatican Gardens, according to The Associated Press. A sampling of those in attendance included a doctor, a recovered COVID-19 patient, a mourner grieving the loss of a relative, a nurse, a journalist, and a civil protection official. During the service, the Pope prayed for the end to the pandemic and the release of a vaccine. Guests sat far apart and most wore face masks, although the Pope did not. It was the largest service Pope Francis has led since Italy’s shutdown in mid-March.

Italy is currently in Phase 2 of its reopening. Churches, restaurants, bars, cafes, and hairdressers have been permitted to reopen if they adhere to social distancing measures.

Italy’s national lockdown began on March 10 where locals weren’t allowed to travel between internal regions and needed to carry a form stating the purpose of their travel to board public transit. The lockdown began to lift on May 4.

This week, Italy will reopen its borders to European Union nationals. Starting Wednesday, Europeans will be able to enter Italy without needing a quarantine period after entry.

Individual regions may set their own rules regarding international arrivals. For example, the Olbia Airport in Sardinia has announced it will not accept international flights until June 25, at the earliest.

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