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Pope takes to his library again for remote audience

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This handout photo taken and released by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on November 2, 2020 shows Pope Francis visiting to the tombs of the deceased popes in the necropolis of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. (Photo by – / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) /

Pope Francis expressed his regret on Wednesday at having to again abandon his weekly general audiences with the public owing to coronavirus, as he gave a live-streamed address from the Vatican.

“Unfortunately we are back to doing this audience in the library in order to protect ourselves from the infections of Covid,” the 83-year-old pontiff said.

“This teaches us that we have to be very attentive to the requirements of the authorities, whether the political authorities or the health authorities, in order to protect ourselves against this pandemic.”

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The pope has himself been reluctant to wear a mask or ask visitors to wear one, and enthusiastically resumed in-person general audiences at the beginning of September after a six-month hiatus.

But the Vatican announced last week these would stop after someone who attended tested positive for coronavirus, despite the event being in a closed room with limited numbers — a far cry from the normal gathering of thousands in St Peter’s Square.

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“We offer to the Lord this distance between us for the good of everyone,” the pope said, also offering prayers for medics and those working with the sick.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by a major wave of coronavirus at the start of 2020, and after a punishing national lockdown, cases fell. But they have surged again in recent weeks in a second wave, sparking new measures including a night curfew.

The country has so far recorded more than 39,400 deaths from Covid-19, with almost 760,000 cases.

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