Pope Francis wears face mask for first time at public event amid coronavirus panic

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The Pope wore a white fabric face mask during a public service at the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on Tuesday. The head of the Catholic Church, 83, had been criticised for only wearing a face covering while in a car taking him to his weekly audiences in the Vatican.

Critics had questioned the Pope for not wearing a face mask while at his general audiences or when coming in relatively close contact with visitors.

But the Pope decided to wear a covering for the service on Tuesday, which was attended by other Christian leaders, including the Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.

The event came as coronavirus cases in Italy have begun to steadily rise again, having recorded 15,199 new cases and 127 deaths in the last 24 hours.

This is up by over a third since Monday, where the number of cases and deaths were 9,335 and 73 respectively.

Cases in the Vatican have also spiked in recent days, with four members of the Swiss Guards – the minor armed forces that protects the Pope – testing positive for COVID-19.

Three other residents of Vatican City State had been found to be positive with mild symptoms over the past few weeks.

But this did not stop Pope Francis from honouring the annual event that was started by the late Pope John Paul and Rome’s Catholic Community of Sant’ Egido in 1986.

This year’s service was scaled down in response to the pandemic, with social distancing measures in place.

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The Pope wore the white face covering for the vast majority of the visit, only taking it off while he read his address.

Other leaders also took off their masks to speak.

The event continued in the adjacent Campidoglio square designed by Michelangelo, where both Christian and non-Christian religious leaders read addresses, some with messages to politicians.

During the Pope’s address, he said: “Peace is the priority of all politics.

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“God will ask an accounting of those who failed to seek peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts.

“He will call them to account for all the days, months and years of war endured by the world’s peoples.”

Francis said the pandemic had shown that “no one is saved alone”.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, should have attended the event but could not because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Italy, the Vatican City and San Marino were removed from the UK’s travel corridor list last week.

The move came into effect from 4am on Sunday 18 October and meant anyone travelling back from these destinations will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

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