Thousands attend pope’s first St Peter’s Square papal audience in two years

first papal audience

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world gathered at the Vatican on Wednesday as Pope Francis held his first weekly papal audience in St Peter’s Square since coronavirus hit in early 2020.

The 85-year-old was met with cries of ‘Long live the pope’ as he entered the square still decorated with 40,000 flowers laid out for last weekend’s Easter celebrations.

With restrictions lifted, thousands of adoring Christians were able to show their appreciation for the pope. Many had travelled across Europe and the rest of the world to attend the general audience.

The Pope shook hands with audience members for the first time since social distancing measures were lifted in Vatican city.

The Argentine pontiff smiled and laughed as he blessed pilgrims. However, he appeared to be suffering again from the knee pain that has limited his activities in recent months.

Odile Lafarge came from France with her grandson to see him, telling AFP: “He always has a message of peace and reconciliation. Our world really needs that.

“What struck me when we arrived is how many young people there are here…. it shows there is a future, a flame burning in them.”

Many in the crowd waved flags from their country of origin, including several from Ukraine. The pope has repeatedly prayed for the country since the Russian invasion nearly two months ago.

In his address, the pontiff thanked Poland for taking in the bulk of the estimated five million Ukrainians in Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“May God reward you for your goodness,” he said.

The pope’s weekly audience traditionally draws thousands of people. However, it has not been held in the vast St Peter’s Square since February 2020 when coronavirus hit.

Francis initially delivered his audiences via video link from the Apostolic Library. Then he held them in the San Damaso Courtyard in the Vatican, where numbers could be limited.

Pope Francis smiled and opened his arms wide in an embrace at the end of the general audience.


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