Francis took off the mask as his car pulled into the San Damaso courtyard inside the Apostolic Palace, where last week he resumed his weekly public audiences after a nearly six-month COVID-19 shutdown.
While chairs were spaced out in the courtyard, the limited crowd massed along the barriers as Francis passed by and some lowered their masks to call out to him. The 83-year-old pope, who lost part of one lung to illness when he was young, loves plunging into crowds but tried to keep his distance and urged the crowd to stick to their seats to avoid contagion.
An aide squirted some hand sanitizer in Francis’ hands after he greeted the well-wishers and before he approached his cleric translators on the podium. It was the first time the pope has been seen in public wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer.
Francis is expected to elaborate on the need for the world to seek out the common good after the pandemic in an upcoming encyclical that he will sign next month during a private visit to Assisi, birthplace of his namesake, St. Francis.