Pope Francis, 84, came by surprise on Friday (2), the day of the celebration of the Passion of Christ, in a Vatican vaccination center for the poor and the homeless.
Images released by the Catholic Church show the pontiff greeting doctors, nurses, staff and those vaccinated in a space near St. Peter’s Basilica.
About 800 people have already been vaccinated there and at least 400 more are expected to be treated, according to the Vatican. The Pope, who has already been vaccinated, said getting vaccinated is an ethical choice, unless there are serious medical reasons why a person cannot be given the drug.
Under Francis’s command, the Vatican created several structures to help homeless people in Rome, including a clinic, with areas for bathing and cutting their hair and beards.
Due to the pandemic, Holy Week celebrations in the Vatican are taking place for the second year in a row with reduced attendance. Easter is one of the main celebrations of the Catholic Church.
The via-crucis, this Friday, took place on an almost empty Saint-Pierre square. It was the second year in a row that the procession commemorating the last hours of Jesus’ life has not taken place in the ancient Coliseum in Rome, since the modern tradition of Easter was reintroduced by Pope Paul 6 in 1964.
Candles in the shape of a huge cross dotted the almost empty St. Peter’s Square, with only about 200 people present, seated on either side of the Pope, in front of the basilica.
In another symbolic gesture, Francis celebrated Mass on Thursday (1st) alongside Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was dismissed from his post after accusations of embezzling money for church charities.
A Vatican source told AFP he could not comment on the Pope’s private engagements, but said “a fraternal gesture on a day like Maundy Thursday does not seem unusual.”
Becciu was also involved in an investment case at the expense of the Vatican in London, but he has always pleaded not guilty. He has not been officially charged with any crime.