Pope to readmit faithful to general audiences from next week: Vatican

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience, held virtually due to COVID-19 at the Vatican August 12, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The faithful will be readmitted to Pope Francis’ weekly general audiences from Sept. 2, a Vatican statement said on Wednesday, as the Holy See slowly lift restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of people traditionally attend the weekly Wednesday gatherings, but the Vatican shut out the public in March, following the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, with the pope instead making his address via a video link.

The Vatican said that from next week he would hold the audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, adding that anyone could attend.

In the summer months the audiences are normally held in the much larger St. Peter’s Square, in front of the main basilica. However, with far few foreigners travelling to Rome because of the coronavirus, smaller crowds are expected.

In his video address on Wednesday, the pope said the pandemic had aggravated social inequalities, with some children seeing their education interrupted and poorer nations lacking the resources to help them deal with the crisis.

“It is a virus that comes from a sick economy,” Pope Francis said. “In today’s world, a few rich people possess more than all the rest of humanity ... This is an injustice that cries out to heaven.”

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Alex Richardson