VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has blamed “this lady called COVID” for forcing him to keep his distance from the faithful during his general audience, which was far smaller than usual amid soaring coronavirus infections in Italy.
Francis again eschewed a protective mask Wednesday even when he greeted a few maskless bishops at the end of his audience. While the prelates wore masks throughout the hour-long audience, they took them off when they lined up to shake Francis’ hand and speak briefly with him one-on-one.
A Vatican official who is a key member of Francis’ COVID-19 response commission, the Rev. Augusto Zampini, acknowledged Tuesday that at age 83 and with part of his lung removed, Francis would be at high risk for complications if he were to become infected.
Zampini said he hoped Francis would don a mask at least when he greeted people during the general audience. “We are working on that,” he said.
Francis has only been seen wearing a mask in public twice: On Sept. 9 as he entered and exited his general audience, and last week during a two-hour interfaith prayer service in downtown Rome.