In his second public — though limited — weekly general audience, Pope Francis Wednesday appealed to people to look out for the health of others as well as themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pope removed his face mask as he arrived at the Vatican's San Damaso courtyard before an audience of about 500 people, compared to the tens of thousands who usually gather at St. Peter's Square.
While chairs were spaced out in the courtyard, the limited crowd massed along the barriers as Pope Francis passed by, and some lowered their masks to call out to him.
He urged the faithful to remain socially distant and not crowd themselves “to avoid the contagion.”
During his remarks, Francis said the pandemic is affecting everyone and “we will emerge from it better people if we all seek the common good together.”
He lamented, however, what he sees as “the emergence of partisan interests.”
“For example, there are those who want to appropriate possible solutions for themselves, such as [developing] vaccines, and then selling them to others,” the pope remarked. He said some are taking advantage of the situation to foment divisions and seek economic or political divisions.
The pope last week resumed his weekly public audiences after a nearly six-month COVID-19 shutdown, during which he gave his remarks virtually.
Elsewhere in Rome Wednesday, several thousand right wing activists gathered from across Italy to protest measures to taken by the Italian government to fight the coronavirus pandemic, such as wearing masks and mandatory vaccination. The protesters see such measures as violations of their personal liberty.
At least one protester was seen carrying a banner in support of U.S. President Donald Trump.
More than 280,000 people have been confirmed to have had COVID-19 in Italy so far, and more than 35,500 people have died, according Johns Hopkins University data.