The two men shake hands, one with a mask, the other without. Pope Francis, 84, is the one without a face shield. Someone with a face covered in a Spider-Man costume received his blessing this Wednesday (23), during the weekly meeting between pontiff and audience at the Vatican.
On the same day, President Jair Bolsonaro shared a video in which the scene is repeated: the Pope, without a mask, greets the faithful with their faces covered. “Hello everyone!” Captioned Bolsonaro, an obvious irony.
In addition to not cultivating the habit of wearing masks, the agent, who to our knowledge has not yet been vaccinated despite already meeting the age criteria, appreciates the idea of abolishing the use of protectors for those who have already been immunized.
Francisco has received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine since February, and the Vatican has recorded no deaths so far. But the use of masks, according to infectologists, is necessary even for those who are already immune.
First, because no drug offers 100% protection, especially in the elderly. Second, because it is not yet certain that those who have already been vaccinated can contract the virus, not get sick, but pass it on to other people.
Even before receiving his doses, Francisco, who in his youth removed part of his lung to treat respiratory disease, was not the biggest fan of masks. In October 2020, at a papal indoor audience, he kissed the hands of newly ordained priests and hugged people, many of whom were elderly and faceless, like himself.
Repeated breaches of the Holy See’s sanitary protocol led America Magazine, the largest Jesuit magazine in the United States, to publish the article “Why Doesn’t the Pope Wear a Mask?” “. The publication described the scene as disastrous.
Roman Curia officials must wear a mask indoors or outdoors (if social distancing is not possible), according to a Vatican document. There are, in addition to health risks, an example to set for the world.
The criticisms were badly digested by the Vatican. A week later, during an outdoor meeting with the public, Francisco did not approach the pilgrims, a habit of his. “Sorry if I say hello from afar today. Following the regulations helps to fight the virus,” he said at the time.
“The truth is that at no time during the pontificate was he rigid with the protocols in general. It is not his personality, it seems. Not only in Covid”, explains the Vaticanian Filipe Domingues , Doctor of Social Sciences from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. . “Sometimes he evaluates. If the good he can do is greater than the risk, he does it.”
In early March 2020, before the WHO (World Health Organization) officialized the planet’s pandemic status, Francisco said he felt trapped having to do the blessings in the library of the Apostolic Palace.
“It is strange this prayer of the Angelus, with a pope in a cage in the library. But I see you and I am close to you”, he declared before leaving by the window. Few of the faithful attended Saint-Pierre Square.
Later that month, Francis starred in an iconic picture of the pandemic, leading a solitary service in the same location, which is normally crowded with people eager to see the Pope. Then he said we were all “in the same boat”.
A year later, a papal trip to Iraq emerged amid the explosion of local cases. There were two milestones: Francisco’s first international trip since the onset of the health crisis and the first time a Catholic Church leader has visited the predominantly Muslim nation.
If he had previously maintained, during the cancellation of other trips, that his conscience prevented him from provoking agglomerations, he thus justified going to Iraq: “It is a duty towards a land martyred for many years. years.
Bolsonaro, who declares himself Catholic, has a conflicted relationship with the current head of the Vatican. Shortly before the pandemic, Francisco criticized the lack of respect for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. The president replied: “The Pope is Argentinian, but God is Brazilian.