French bishop tests positive for coronavirus after Vatican visit

A French bishop who visited the Vatican last week has tested positive for coronavirus, his diocese announced Monday.

Bishop Emmanuel Delmas of Angers tested positive for COVID-19 on the evening of March 15. The Diocese of Angers said in a statement today that the bishop first experienced symptoms during his time in Rome.

Delmas was part of a delegation of 31 French bishops who met with Pope Francis during their ad limina visit on March 9. Vatican media shared photos of the bishops sitting one meter apart with a significant distance from the pope. 

The pope’s audience with the French bishops lasted two and a half hours, according to a statement by the French bishops’ conference.

The Holy See Press Office has not responded to an inquiry from CNA asking if the French bishops greeted Pope Francis with a handshake after the meeting, as is customary during ad limina visits. The audience came one day after the Vatican confirmed it had implemented precautionary measures in coordination with Italian authorities, and the Diocese of Rome announced the suspension of all public Masses for three weeks.

Bishop Delmas’ coronavirus symptoms are said to be mild, and “his condition is currently not of concern,” the Angers diocese stated.

After learning of his diagnosis, Delmas, 65, asked for “all of the faithful to persevere in prayer.”

“May this time of trial be an opportunity to pray, especially for the sick, frail, and for health personnel,” Bishop Delmas said.

During their time in Rome, the French bishops met with curial officials at the different Vatican dicasteries before their ad limina visit was cut short by the worsening situation in Italy and France. 

The average incubation period for the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness is 5.1 days, according to a study published March 9 by researchers at John Hopkins’ school of public health, who determined that 97.5% of people develop coronavirus symptoms within 11.5 days of exposure.

Pope Francis continued to receive individuals in private audiences on March 16, meeting with Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life; Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication; and Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence. 

Since returning from Italy, the French bishops are limiting contact with others, the French bishops’ conference told local media. The delegation included bishops from Bordeaux, Tours, Rouen, and other parts of Western France. 

Coronavirus cases in Italy have grown quickly in recent weeks, surpassing 24,700 documented cases. More than 1,800 people have died from COVID-19 in the country since Feb. 22, according to the Italian Ministry of Health. 

There have been 436 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lazio, the region surrounding Rome, as of March 15.

A nationwide quarantine has been declared in Italy through April 3 in order to slow the spread of the pandemic.

The quarantine restricts movement within Italy and requires that people stay in their homes except for cases of necessity, which may include going to work, to the pharmacy or hospital, or to the supermarket.

France also imposed national restrictions closing all cafes, restaurants, and most businesses throughout the country after more than 125 people in France have died after contracting COVID-19.