Updated 12 March: The situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is evolving globally. This post is updated regularly as more information about coronavirus at the Vatican becomes available.
Due to the Coronavirus, Italy has been put on lockdown since March 10, 2020. Although Vatican City is considered a separate country to Italy, they have also taken measures to deal with the virus. The Vatican is officially the smallest country in the world and has every right to make their own rules to protect the 1,000 citizens there, as well as to help stop the global pandemic. Here is what we know is happening because of coronavirus at the Vatican:
Pope Sick on Ash Wednesday
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Ash Wednesday at San Sabina, a church on the Aventine Hill on the 26th of February, 2020. During the service, there was concern for the Pope as he appeared to be coughing and blowing his nose. The Pope was tested for coronavirus but was found to be negative. He later canceled a week-long retreat, an event that takes place at the beginning of Lent each year. This was the first time he had canceled this retreat since he became Pope on the 13th of March 2013. The Pope has had some health issues in the past, including having a part of his lung removed due to tuberculosis when he was in his 20s in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Case of Coronavirus at the Vatican
On March 6th the Vatican’s health clinic was temporarily closed as an unnamed individual who was not a resident or an employee of the Vatican but had attended a conference at the Vatican was found to have coronavirus. The Vatican has over 5,000 employees so precautions were put into place immediately.
Five people were quarantined as they had been in close contact with this person. The Vatican since advised that people should stay a yard apart, avoid gathering in large groups and avoid elevators unless physically impaired.
Vatican Museums Closed to Stop Spread of Coronavirus
The Vatican Museum is one of the most famous museums in the world. They opened under Pope Julius II who was Pope between 1503-1513. Due to the Coronavirus, the museums closed their doors to the public on Monday, March 9th. At this point, the museums are slated to open again to the public on April 3rd but this may change.
This closure also includes visiting the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. Also, the museum at Castel Gandolfo where the Pope has his summer residence is closed along with the Scavi tour underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.
Public masses televised
Every Sunday at 12 pm the Pope gives the Angelus from the window of his Papal apartments looking down on St. Peter’s Square. However, on March 7th it was announced that the Pope will no longer (during the epidemic) give the Angelus to the public on St. Peter’s Square but will be live streaming from the Library of the Apostolic Palace.
This will also be the case for his Papal Audience which he gives every Wednesday. This is to avoid large groups gathering. The Sunday Angelus and the Wednesday Papal Audience can be streamed on Vatican News and on youtube. The first live stream audience took place for the Angelus on Sunday, March 8th and again for the Papal Audience on Wednesday, March 11th.
St. Peter’s Basilica closed
With the closing of St. Peter’s Basilica this confirms that Vatican City as a whole is closed to the public. This will stay the case until at least April 3rd. This also includes St. Peter’s Square, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 1600s. The Basilica will be open for mass but only to residents that live inside the Vatican. This decision was made on March 10th, 2020. The closures also include the Vatican post office.