At the start of the indoor audience Francis apologised to people for not coming down from the marble stage.
“I will stay up here. I would very much like to come down and greet each of you but we have to keep our distances,” he said to the crowd of several hundred, nearly all wearing masks.
“If I come down, immediately people will form groups ... and this is against the care, the precautions, we must have in the face of this lady named COVID, who is doing us much harm,” he said.
The pope and most aides and translators on the stage did not wear masks. Swiss Guards and official photographers on the stage wore masks but bishops and priests who greeted the pope close up removed their masks as they approached him.
Thirteen Swiss Guards and a resident of the guest house where the pope lives have recently tested positive for COVID-19.