Rome (CNN)On Monday, the Vatican press office issued an official photo of Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ahead of a private audience in which they discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the world, according to an Italian government spokesman.
Vatican City is protecting the Pope from coronavirus, but keeping employees at work
What was most telling about the photo wasn't the look of concern on the leaders' faces -- it was the fact that the men appeared to be standing closer to each other than the one meter (three feet) dictated by current social distancing norms in parts of Europe.
Vatican City is the seat of the Catholic church, and it has been a sovereign state in the middle of Rome since 1929. It has 605 residents, all with a Vatican City passport and who are out of Italy's legal jurisdiction. And while Rome and the rest of Italy impose stringent social distancing rules, multiple reports inside Vatican City suggest that the Holy See is doing far less than the rest of Italy to stop the spread.
Some residents of the city-state are being carefully protected -- Pope Francis, well into his 80s with a damaged lung from an infection in his 20s, has twice tested negative for the novel coronavirus. He is being distanced from anyone who might be carrying the virus, the Vatican press office says, and he takes his meals in his private quarters and uses hand sanitizer before and after meeting any guests.
But precautions seem far more lax for church employees lower down the ranks. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has told employees to come to the office to avoid documents, files and archives from leaving the office, one employee told the Associated Press last week. Other offices, like the Propaganda Fide, require their employees to come in twice a week for the same reason.