Pope Francis will not take part in a traditional Dec. 8 public event in central Rome because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican has said.
On the day, which marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope usually makes a pilgrimage to a statue of the Virgin Mary near the Spanish steps.
“Francis will not be venerating the statue this year to avoid any risk of contagion caused by gatherings of people,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement on Monday.
Instead, the pope will offer prayers to the Virgin Mary on behalf of the city of Rome, its inhabitants and sick people from all over the world “in a private act of devotion,’’ Bruni added.
The pope’s visit to the Spanish steps area, one of Rome’s tourist hotspots, is a tradition that dates back to 1953.
The event usually attracts large crowds.
This year’s pandemic has forced several changes in the papal agenda.
In April, he was forced to celebrate Easter with no public in St Peter’s Basilica, and Christmas season services are also expected to take place with no crowds.