COVID-19 cases are rising in Italy, so Pope Francis took no chances. On Tuesday, at a prayer event for peace around the world in Rome, he wore a mask in public for the first time after being criticized on social media for not wearing one. In fact, prior to Tuesday, he had only been seen wearing a mask in a car taking him to his weekly audiences at the Vatican.
The 83-year-old Francis attended the service with other Christian leaders in the Basilica. Joining him was the Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians. In other locations in Rome, there were additional prayer services being held at the same time, including Jews praying in the city’s synagogue and Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh also praying for peace.
It’s an event that has been held for the past 34 years and started by the late Pope John Paul. Usually larger in scale, the event was smaller this year due to the pandemic.
All eyes were on the pope as he removed his mask to read his address, but he put it back on when he was done speaking. There is concern for the pope’s health as he makes appearances in front of large crowds because when he was a young man growing up in Argentina, he had a part of one lung removed during an illness. Those close to him say he sometimes breathes heavily after climbing steps, which has caused concern during the pandemic.