By Vatican News
Pope Francis’s summer break is over. As of Wednesday, August 5th, Pope Francis resumes his weekly General Audiences, which he suspends each July. The last public General Audience held in the Paul VI audience hall took place on 7 March. These audiences begin at 9:30 local Rome time and last for about one hour. After public General Audiences, Pope Francis customarily greets a number of people.
After the last public audience on 7 March, the Vatican moved the Audiences from St Peter’s Square to the library of the Apostolic Palace in order to comply with measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time, on 18 March, Vatican News began offering an English commentary for the General Audience.
Pope Francis and his catechesis
As Pope Francis again picks up his weekly General Audience, it will be his 318th Catechesis. The only other time outside of July that General Audiences are suspended are during the Pope's papal trips. As soon as Pope Francis returns from such a trip, he always recaps his journey. Sometimes this happens the day following his return.
During the General Audience, the Pope gives a catechesis on the Christian faith. Short summaries of these catecheses are translated into 7 languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish. Longer summaries of these catecheses are published on Vatican News and full texts can be found on the official Vatican web portal. The General Audiences can be viewed live with playback available on the various language channels of the Vatican Media YouTube channel.
So far, Pope Francis has completed 15 catechesis series. The first series was on the Creed, a theme he took up from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Themes that followed this series were on: the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the family, mercy, Christian hope, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Beatitudes. The last cycle he began is on Christian prayer.
Pope Francis’s appeals
Sometimes, Pope Francis makes appeals at the conclusion of the General Audience. Some of these appeals call for peace in areas ravaged by war and terror, others remind us of the plight of persecuted Christians, some appeal for Christian solidarity with victims of natural disasters, or draw attention to tragedies such as migration, unemployment or poverty. In his General Audience prior to the summer break, he prayed for the victims of an earthquake in Mexico. On 10 June, he took the opportunity to condemn the tragedy of child labour.
Place used for the General Audiences over the years
Pope Paul VI held the weekly General Audience in St Peter's Basilica. When the Vatican Audience Hall was inaugurated on 30 June 1971, Pope Paul VI said: "We inaugurate this beautiful and large hall that We wanted to build above all for two reasons: to free St Peter's Basilica from the large and vivacious crowds that had become normal, and to offer Our visitors an even more suitable place for large gatherings." In 1963, Pope Paul VI commissioned the building of what would later become know as the Paul VI Hall. It seats 6300 people and is still used for General Audiences in extreme cold or when it rains. In 2007, solar panels were installed on its roof.
With Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, attendance at the weekly General Audience went beyond the capacity of Paul VI Hall. To deal with the huge crowds who wanted to attend them, the venue was moved St. Peter's Square. It was, in fact, as Pope John Paul II was entering St Peter’s Square for the General Audience of 13 May 1981, that an attempt was made on his life.
The coronavirus pandemic has now made this impossible. However, through radio, television and digital platforms, the Pope’s General Audience is made available to millions of the faithful throughout the world, with simultaneous commentary in French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese.