In an extraordinary measure aimed at discouraging crowds, Pope Francis delivered his Sunday noon Angelus blessing and remarks through a video. The pope read his comments and recited prayers while standing at a lectern near a microphone in the Vatican's apostolic library. The video was played on maxi-screens which was set up in St. Peter's Square for the faithful.
The 83-year-old, who was supposed to deliver his blessings and remarks from the Vatican palazzo window, just appeared for a few seconds to wave to the people below in the square and made no comments. According to reports, the measure was taken to discourage crowds from gathering in the square as mostly around 40,000 people turn out to watch the people in the window. However, several thousands of tourists and faithful still turned out and were scattered across the vast cobblestone square.
The Vatican in a public statement on March 7 confirmed the news saying that the prayer will be broadcast via video by Vatican news and on screens in Saint Peter’s square. According to reports, the Vatican had also promised to review the pontiff’s schedule to avoid 'dissemination' of the coronavirus. The move also came after Vatican city reported its first positive case on Friday.
Pope Francis was also tested negative for the novel coronavirus after the health condition of the 83-year-old triggered fear of a possible infection, reported an Italian newspaper. The Pope had skipped the week-long Lenten spiritual retreat with senior Vatican officials near Rome for the first time in his papacy since his election in 2013.
The Vatican said that the decision to skip the retreat was a last-minute one considering the health of the Pope who was seen coughing and sneezing during his first public appearance in four days. The Vatican had earlier said that Pope Francis was suffering from “slight indisposition” that forced him to avoid public appearance.
The Pope was battling an apparent cold that led to the cancellation of several official engagements and finally appeared on March 1 where he said that a cold prevented him to participate in the retreat. The Vatican did not reveal the nature of Pope's illness, however, his illness was reported amid alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak.