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March 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Holy See announced yesterday that its offices remain open and are continuing to function, although with a reduction in staff present in the facilities. In addition, Pope Francis stated on Sunday that he is continuing his own work as normal and is still holding private audiences, although not public ones.
Although a prudent distance is being maintained between individuals within Vatican City, and measures are being taken to disinfect the facilities in use, the Vatican Press Office has admitted that three new cases of infection have arisen recently, for a total of four, and the Italian press are expressing concern that the situation is ripe for a larger outbreak.
“I’m adjusting to this new way of doing things,” Pope Francis said Sunday in an interview with the Spanish journalist Jordi Évole, describing the now-empty St. Peter’s Square as a “desert.” Asked if he is in isolation, the pontiff responded, “Yes . . . no, that is to say, I am taking care of myself. I don’t receive groups, but I do receive personal audiences. Every hour or every half-hour, pre-scheduled. And I continue to work as normal.”
The current approach, according to a report by Vatican News, is to “avoid the further spreading of COVID-19 in a way that does not involve suspending its proper activities.”
The Holy See “is entrusting to the leadership of the Dicasteries ‘the task of continuing to carry out the essential services of the Universal Church,’” Vatican News states. They are to do this by “arranging for minimal numbers of personnel in their offices and encouraging, insofar as it is possible, that work be done remotely, in such [a] way as to limit the transfer of employees and at the same time guarantee the exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
However, the Italian newspaper Il Messagero reports that precautions taken so far in the Vatican appear not to be sufficient for preventing the spread of disease. “Up to now, in many Vatican congregations the area has not been sterilized, and many of those working in the offices do not have masks available to them. They are only following the practice of maintaining a distance of one meter from others and of using hand santizers, but the risk of contagion remains quite evident to everyone.”
Physical copies of the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano are no longer being printed “out of fear of coronavirus contagion,” Thomas D. Williams reported at Breitbart.
The four individuals who have been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 were quarantined immidately after testing positive as a precaution, according to Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See, and reported by Il Messagero. “Their isolation will last another fourteen days. They are currently being cared for in Italian hospitals or in their own homes.”
In addition to the first case of infection, which was a visiting priest, two employees of the Vatican Museum and one worker involved in processing freight have been infected with COVID-19, according to Il Messagero.
Pope Francis has been exposed to at least one person infected and symptomatic with COVID-19: the French bishop Emmanuel Delmas, who attended an audience with Francis on March 9 with other French bishops during an ad limina visit. Moreover, in late February, the pontiff was ill for several days with what appears to have been a strong cold, prompting him to cancel his participation in several public events. However, he appeared to be healthy in his interview with Évole on Sunday, which was conducted through an internet video service.
The Holy See assured the press yesterday that they have a plan for quickly reporting any cases of infection to the health authorities of the place of residence of the employee and as well as those of Vatican City State, although the details of their plan have not been made public.