The 84-year-old pope resumed his weekly audiences with public last September after a six-month break because of the contagion. After a rise in infections, he returned to virtual audiences from inside a Vatican library at the start of November.
The limited number of visitors had their temperatures checked as they entered the Vatican six months later on Wednesday and everyone among the audience wore masks. The public sat in seats arranged to ensure social distancing, although many seats were empty.
Francis, who has been vaccinated, appeared to be energised by the crowd - even though it was a far cry from the tens of thousands that can be held in St. Peter’s Square, where outdoor audiences were held before the pandemic.