Pope Francis spoke to the faithful from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the first time he had done so in just over a month.
“I’ll tell you something: I miss the square when I have to recite the Angelus in the library,’ Francis said, referring to the prayer that he leads the faithful in praying on most Sundays. Throughout the pandemic, the pope has often delivered the weekly address, prayer and blessing from the apostolic library, with no public in attendance.
“I am happy, thanks be to God! And thank you for your presence,” the pope said Sunday, smiling.
The pope identified several flags among the several hundred faithful in the square, “Brazilians, Poles, Spanish people,” Francis said, offering a “warm greeting” also to the “people of Rome and pilgrims.”
Italy suffered one of the earliest and most severe outbreaks of the coronavirus in Europe. During the first lockdown, in 2020, pilgrims were not allowed to gather in St. Peter’s Square from March 8 to May 24. A huge surge over the winter brought back new restrictions, and another that peaked last month prompted another tight lockdown. That has succeeded in lowering infections, and many restrictions are expected to be eased beginning on April 26.
Francis has often used Sunday address to comment on current global affairs. This Sunday, he said he was particularly concerned about growing tensions and an “increase of military activities” in eastern Ukraine, “where in recent months violations of the cease-fire have multiplied.”
For weeks, Russia has been moving military equipment and massing troops along its border with Ukraine, setting off alarms in Europe and Washington, the largest build up since the conflict in the contested region began seven years ago.
“Please, I firmly hope that the increase of tensions may be avoided and, on the contrary, gestures may be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, both so necessary and so desired,” Francis said.