ROME — The Vatican announced Wednesday that any journalist wishing to travel aboard the papal flight to Iraq in March must first receive the coronavirus vaccine.
“Since some unforeseen situations beyond the control of the trip organization may make it difficult to respect the necessary measures of personal protection from COVID-19, especially with regard to social distancing,” the Vatican said in the printed guidelines for the papal trip, “in order to participate in the Apostolic Journey of the Holy Father Francis in Iraq it is necessary to have undergone the vaccination against COVID-19 within the appropriate time.”
Despite showing proof of vaccination, all aboard the papal plane must also wear a facemask at all times, keep a social distance of at least one meter, and receive a PCR test to demonstrate the absence of coronavirus infection, the guidelines state.
The Vatican did not explain why vaccinated individuals need to wear a mask and maintain social distancing measures, but it did say that the PCR test responds to government regulations for international flights.
Pope Francis already received the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus earlier this month and the Vatican’s doctrinal office has clarified that there is no moral obligation for Catholics to receive the vaccine.
Journalists admitted to the papal flight may also request to receive the vaccine in the Vatican, in which case it will be administered in early February with the booster shot in the last week of the same month, the guidelines stipulate.
“All travelers are advised to carry indication of their blood group,” the text states.
The pope has repeatedly urged that the coronavirus be made available to everyone, especially the poor, and earlier this month suggested that people unwilling to get the vaccine suffer from “suicidal denialism.”
“I think ethically that everyone should take the vaccine,” the pope told Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona in a television interview. “It should be done.”
“It is not an option — ‘I think so, I don’t think so’ — it’s an ethical choice, because you gamble with your health, you gamble with your life, and you gamble with other people’s lives,” the pontiff said.
“I don’t know why some people say, ‘no, the vaccine is dangerous,’” Francis continued. “Doctors are proposing it as something that can be helpful and as something without special dangers, why wouldn’t you take it?”
“There’s a sort of suicidal denialism at play that I can’t explain,” he concluded. “Today, you should take the vaccine.”
On Wednesday morning, the Vatican vaccinated a first group of around 25 homeless people who reside in the care and residence facilities of the Office of Papal Charities, the Holy See Press Office reported.