A joyful Pope Francis greeted a group of about 300 faithful in a Vatican courtyard Wednesday as he resumed his in-person weekly general audience with members of the public for the first time in six months.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the pope’s public audiences last year as the pandemic swept through Italy. He instead taped his weekly message in a Vatican library. He attempted to resume them again in September, only to be forced back into the library when infection rates rose in November.
The crowd of about 300 cheered as the pope stepped out of a car that drove him into San Damaso Courtyard at the Vatican. He removed his mask and smiled and waved at the social-distanced group, all of whom had their temperatures checked as they entered the area.
As he made his way to the front of the courtyard, the pope greeted a baby, signed a book and put on a red knit Filipino hat given to him by an audience member.
In his opening remarks, the pope told the audience how happy he was to be back, face to face, with them.
“I will tell you something — it is not nice to speak in front of nothing, to a camera. It is not nice,” he said.
Later in the day, he held a private audience with German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass.
The 84-year-old pope has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as have all residents of the Vatican.