Pope Francis wore a mask for the first time at a public address on Tuesday, the week after 11 Swiss Guards came down with Covid-19, prompting fears for his health.
Over the weekend, the Vatican also said someone living in the same hotel as the pope had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The pope, 83, had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
That, as well as his age and weight, makes him particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. He is frequently monitored for the virus.
Previously he wore masks only in a car taking him to his weekly audiences in the Vatican.
Pope Francis wore a face mask for the first time in public on Tuesday when he and other religious leaders attended a prayer service for peace around the world
The pope had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina, and is therefore particularly vulnerable to Covid-19
The pope donned the mask at a public function on Tuesday when he and other religious leaders attended a prayer service for peace around the world.
He had come under some criticism, particularly on social media, for not wearing a mask at his general audiences and sometimes coming in relatively close contact with visitors.
Francis wore a white mask during the service at the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Previously he wore masks only in a car taking him to his weekly audiences in the Vatican.
Francis attended the service with other Christian leaders in the basilica, including the Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.
Simultaneously in other locations in Rome, Jews were praying in the city’s synagogue and Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim leaders also prayed for peace.
The annual event was started by the late Pope John Paul and Rome’s Catholic Community of Sant’ Egido in 1986. It was scaled down this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pope took off his mask while he read his address, as did other leaders when they spoke, but put it back on when he finished speaking.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, was to have attended the event but could not because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Francis wore a white mask during the service at the Rome Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Pictured: Francis (far right) stands with the Ecumenical patriarch of Costantinople Bartholomew I (left) at the service
Pope Francis (centre), Ecumenical patriarch of Costantinople Bartholomew I (second left) and Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia (third right) attended the ceremony for peace with representatives from various religions on Campidoglio Square, in Rome
The Vatican said Saturday that a resident of the Domus Sanctae Marthae had moved out temporarily and was in isolation, as are all the people who came into direct contact with him.
Francis chose to live there permanently after his 2013 election, shunning the Apostolic Palace, because he said he needed to be around ordinary people.
The hotel has a communal dining room and chapel where Francis celebrates Mass each morning.
It was also announced last week that eleven members of the Swiss Guard, which protects the pope, had contracted coronavirus.
On October 12, four men became the first members of the Guard to test positive and a further seven cases were announced last Friday.
The guards stand watch outside the Vatican and tend to accompany the pope to official events.
The pope removed his mask to give his address during the service. After he finished speaking, he put his mask back on and returned to his seat. The annual event was started by the late Pope John Paul and Rome’s Catholic Community of Sant’ Egido in 1986. It was scaled down this year because of the coronavirus pandemic
It was announced last week that eleven members of the Swiss Guard (pictured) which protects the pope, had contracted coronavirus , adding to fears over the pontiff’s health. Fears were increased when someone living in the same hotel as the pope also tested positive
The event took place as the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has risen steadily in Italy in the past few weeks.
On Sunday, the country imposed new restrictions on bars and restaurants aimed at halting the spread of coronavirus after days of record infection numbers.
Restaurants and bars are restricted to table service only after 6pm, three hours earlier than the previous measures allowed, but can maintain the current midnight closing time.
Italian mayors can also close public squares and other gathering places after 9pm, permitting access only to reach homes or businesses.
Coronavirus cases in Italy have reached record levels in recent weeks, but that is in part down to higher levels of testing than during the first wave. Sunday saw Italy record a record number of new daily cases, the same day new coronavirus measures were introduced
While cases are up, deaths have remained low when compared with Italy’s peak in late March, although the last week has seen a small up-tick in the number of daily deaths
On Tuesday, Italy recorded 10,871 new coronavirus cases and 89 deaths, both up from yesterday’s 9,338 cases and 73 deaths.
As in many other European nations experiencing a second wave of the virus, new daily cases are higher than they were in the Spring – largely down to greater levels of testing – while the number of daily deaths are far lower.
Tuesday’s daily tally took Italy’s total number of confirmed cases to 434,449 and 36,705 deaths.