Pope Francis donned a white mask while he and other religious leaders prayed for peace around the world during the service at The Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome. Previously he had only worn a face covering during the journey to and from his weekly audiences in the Vatican and had received criticism as he regularly comes into close contact with visitors. The event took place as the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has risen steadily in Italy in the past few weeks, recording 10,874 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours before his appearance.
The 80-year-old took off his mask while he read his address, as did other leaders when they spoke, but put it back on when he finished speaking.
Amid the move, some have already pointed to a passage from the Gospel of Luke, which records a number of teachings and parables said to be told by Jesus Christ, but also appears to warn against “religious masks”.
Chapter 12 reads: “By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands.
“But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples.
The Pope donned a face mask at an event for the first time
The Pope attended an event on Tuesday
“He said to them: ‘Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever, before long you’ll be exposed.
“‘You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever, sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.
“’You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public, the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.’”
The chapter goes on to give more advice on how Jesus’ disciples should act.
It adds: “‘I’m speaking to you as dear friends.
The Pontiff had been criticised for not wearing a mask
“’Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies.
“’True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.
“’Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in his hands.’”
The passage itself has been shared on social media numerous times, but others have also tweeted to explain why they will not be wearing a mask.
One stated: “God created me in his image and I will not be coerced into obstructing my God-given breath of life.
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The 80-year-old wore a white mask
“The Bible says we should stand before God with our faces unveiled.”
Another added: “Read the Bible, when your time is up no mask will save you.”
A third claimed: ”Why does one need a mask in the open air?
“I’m pretty sure the fallen fought so we the people would not ever be forced, by government, to wear a mask.”
And a fourth stated: “No one needs a mask, we are free in Jesus, the Bible tells us do not be afraid.”
Some have shared a Bible verse warning against ‘religious masks’
Many others online seemed to disagree, sharing Matthew 22:39, which states: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” in a reference to protecting the vulnerable who may be more susceptible to the virus.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people cover their face in public settings where social distancing is not practical.
The idea is that masks could help keep people with coronavirus infections from spreading the virus when they speak.
The World Health Organisation says masks are a “key measure” in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
The CDC and WHO advise to wear masks
In a statement, it said: “Wear a mask, especially when you can’t physically distance, to limit the risk of getting COVID-19.
“People wearing masks are protected from getting infected. Masks also prevent onward transmission when worn by a person who is infected, whether they have symptoms or not.
“Most people should wear fabric masks. Medical masks are recommended for certain groups, including people aged 60 or over and those with underlying health conditions, as they are more likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19.
“Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all’ approach including physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, improving ventilation, cleaning hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and more.”