ROME – On Wednesday the Vatican announced that after a nearly six-month hiatus faithful will again be able to see Pope Francis in person beginning next week with his first public general audience since Italy lifted its lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

After the COVID-19 coronavirus first broke out in Italy this spring, the Vatican in March announced that all public events and audiences would be suspended in order to comply with healthcare and safety requirements.

As a result, Pope Francis began holding his weekly public events – his Wednesday general audience and his Sunday Angelus address – via livestream from the Vatican’s apostolic palace, typically making a brief appearance at the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sundays to wave to the empty space where pilgrims once stood.

Faithful began to trickle back to St. Peter’s Square after quarantine restrictions were lifted in Italy in May, but the pope has continued to hold his Wednesday audiences inside the apostolic palace, livestreaming them to the public.

In an Aug. 26 communique, the Vatican announced that as of Wednesday, Sept. 2, Francis will again hold his general audiences outside with faithful. However, due to health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus, they will be held in the Vatican’s San Damaso courtyard, where heads of state typically arrive for official visits, rather than St. Peter’s Square, in order to keep the crowds smaller.

The audiences will begin at 9:30 a.m. local time, and are free of charge to whoever wishes to come, with no tickets required.

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