At 7.30 this morning, in an almost deserted St. Peter’s Square, the bells rang out for the first mass after the long interval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The faithful arrived in twos or threes, very few foreigners, some nuns, Today, on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pope Wojtyla, St. Peter’s Basilica has reopened its doors, after having carried out all the sanitizing operations inside and with all the necessary precautions and measures for access. Pope Francis himself has launched an earnest appeal to respect the regulations and avoid the risk of contamination.
To enter the basilica, the faithful must follow the yellow lines on the ground under the right-hand colonnade, keeping a distance of one metre from each other. At the end of the route, temperatures are checked by volunteers of the Order of Malta that runs the First-Aid Post (FAP) situated instead on the left-hand colonnade in the Carlo Magno arm.
Two volunteers, protected by masks, goggles, gloves and white coats, stand behind a barrier to take the temperature of the faithful with a thermometer-gun. Alongside them Prof. Domenico Arduini, the FAP manager, checks the correct functioning of operations and fine-tunes the details. The service is active when the basilica is open from 7.30 a.m. until 6.30 p.m. The volunteers will alternate in two shifts every day.
The First-Aid Post suspended its normal activity on 9th March last, the day on which lockdown started in Italy. The FAP should resume its normal service of health assistance to the faithful when access to St. Peter’s Square inside the colonnade is allowed again, presumably on 3rd June, and always for a limited number of visitors.
The Order of Malta’s First-Aid Post, in which some 90 volunteers alternate – 40 doctors and nurses and some 50 rescuers – was first established for the 1950 Holy Year under the papacy of Pius XII. Since then it has assisted pilgrims 365 days a year in St. Peter’s Square, in close cooperation with Vatican Directorate of Health and Hygiene.