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The audiences will once again be virtual and the Vatican Museums are closed. The president of the Episcopal Conference of Italy, Walter Bassetti, 78, is serious.

The remarkable expansion of the coronavirus in the second wave forced Pope Francis to return to quarantine, moved by the seriousness of the state of Cardinal Gualterio Bassetti, 78, his personal friend, infected and admitted to intensive care in Perugia, a central city of Italy of which he is archbishop.

Bassetti is the president of the Episcopal Conference of Italy, institutionally the most important of the Church because the pontiff is its natural leader as bishop of Rome.

The Holy See, which has restricted his pubic activities to the maximum announced the closure to visitors of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel and also noted that the 83-year-old Francis decided to suspend public hearings.

Jorge Bergoglio held the weekly general audience in the private pontifical library, located in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, with the presence of only ten priests. In his homily, broadcast by the Vatican Television Center and radio to the whole world, as he had done during the first wave of the pandemic, the Argentine Pope urged people to follow the recommendations of governments to prevent contagion.

Thirteen Swiss Guards, the small army of 135 soldiers that protects the pontiff since 1500, were infected two weeks ago with Covid-19.

The Pope did not complain again as in the summer, when he said that he felt confined in a cage. He noted that “unfortunately” it is necessary to restore restrictive measures “To defend ourselves from the pandemic.”

The general audiences had been suspended in March, when the first phase of the epidemic broke out, and reestablished in September with the presence of only 500 faithful.

At Christmas the celebrations will take place with the presence of small groups of the faithful. On December 25, pilgrims will be allowed limited entry to St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s traditional Christmas message and the “urbi et orbi” blessing (to Rome and the world) from the balcony of the central loggia of the basilica.

The Pope will continue with the celebration of the “Angelus”, as always at noon on Sundays, in which you can see it from afar, leaning out of a window in the pontifical study on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace. Speak to a distributed crowd with safe distances in St. Peter’s Square.

Vatican, correspondent

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