Pope repeatedly passes on wearing mask in public

Pope Francis’ repeated non-use of a face mask is again in focus as Four Swiss Guards test positive for COVID-19.

The four are in isolation while their contacts are being traced, the Vatican said Monday.

The Swiss Guards provide ceremonial guard duty during papal Masses, man the Vatican gates and help protect the 83-year-old Pope Francis.

The outbreak comes as last Wednesday Italy passed a new law nationwide outdoor mask mandate promising fines of up to 1,000 euros (NZ $1,773) for violators.

Italy’s premier Giuseppe Conte says a steady, nine-week rise in infections nationwide demanded new preventive measures to stave off economically-devastating closures and shutdowns.

“We have to be more rigorous because we want to avoid at all cost more restrictive measures for production and social activities,” Conte said.

The nationwide move follows the Vatican’s Tuesday 6 October announcement that face coverings must be worn within the Vatican City State.

Vatican department head, Bishop Fernando Vérgez, Secretary-General of the Governorate of Vatican City State, said that masks should be worn “in the open air and in all workplaces where distance cannot always be guaranteed.”

With Italy and the Vatican State in agreement, Francis, Wednesday, held his general audience inside the Paul VI Hall without wearing a mask.

Most of Francis aides and secretaries also did not wear face masks.

Representatives of the health and security departments who were in the hall for last Wednesday’s general audience reacted with disbelief and concern at Francis’ behaviour.

On Thursday, Francis also met with external financial inspectors from Moneyval, and photos taken of Francis with the inspectors standing shoulder to shoulder show no one was wearing a mask.

Robert Mickens in La Croix International reports a senior Vatican offical expressing bewilderment at Francis’ risky behaviour.

The unnamed official is reported to have said, “I don’t get it.”

“The 83-year pope, who is visibly overweight and is missing a part of a lung, was not just without a mask at the indoor event.

“On more than just a few instances during his lingering entrance from the back of the hall he was clearly not respecting proper distancing from people in the crowd”, writes Mickens.

He describes Francis’ refusal to wear a facemask and keep a proper distance from people at this time of pandemic as “extremely troubling”.

“Not only is he setting a very bad example for all those who look to him for guidance, but he is also putting his health and that of others in danger”, Mickens writes.

Last month, a Vatican official explained Francis finds it difficult to wear a mask that restricts his breathing.

When 21 Francis suffered acute pleurisy, resulting in surgeons removing part of his right lung.

According to a statement from a Vatican official on September 14, the pope is being “constantly monitored” for signs of the coronavirus.

The Italian State face mask decree was passed on the same day that Italy added 3,678 new infections and 31 deaths to its official coronavirus toll.

This is the highest increase in new cases since the peak of the outbreak in April.

Italy has over 36,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, the second-highest number in Europe after Britain.


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