Only people who have received coronavirus vaccines may attend Pope Francis’s Mass during his planned visit in Slovakia this September, according to the country’s health minister.
Slovakian health minister Vladimír Lengvarský announced during a press conference on July 20 that a decision was made in cooperation with the Slovakian bishops’ conference to demand “full vaccination” as “the condition for participation in Holy Masses and other events.”
Both the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, and Lengvarský framed the decision as a way to help “as many people” as possible attend papal events.
Slovakia’s COVID-19 restrictions limit event attendance to 1,000 people, and “permitting only the vaccinated to attend will reportedly allow this cap to be raised for meetings during Pope Francis’ visit,” according to Catholic News Agency.
“We have been informed that, from the point of view of security and technical possibilities, this is the only realistic way not to radically limit the number of participants” at papal events, said Zvolenský, according to the Slovakian bishops’ conference website.
Only 34.7 percent of Slovakia’s population is fully vaccinated with an experimental coronavirus vaccine as of July 22, according to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Center. At least another 6 percent of the population have received a first dose of the COVID-19 shot.
Pope Francis plans to take part in an ecumenical meeting with Christian leaders, as well as meet with political authorities and the Jewish community during his visit from September 12 to September 15. He will also celebrate a Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine rite, as well as a Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.