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FACT CHECK: Did 118 participants at the Synod on Synodality really come down with COVID?

null / Credit: Myriam B/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Oct 9, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Claim: More than 100 participants in the Synod on Synodality, taking place at the Vatican Oct. 4–29, had “tested positive for COVID-19” and were absent from the gathering for this reason on Oct. 9.

CNA finds: The Vatican cardinal responsible for the Synod of Bishops said Oct. 9 that “only four people have told us that they stayed at home because they have COVID.”

Breakdown: A Vatican News article in Italian momentarily misreported on Oct. 9 that 118 synod participants have COVID, attributing the statement to Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. The article was later corrected. CNA reviewed the original article before the correction was made and an archived version of the article. Vatican News is the Vatican’s state-owned media outlet.

In livestreamed remarks reviewed by CNA, Grech said “some participants are not with us in the hall this morning because among them, at least some of them, have resulted positive for COVID. So, to be cautious, they will not participate in the work for the next few days. Above all, we hope everyone recovers as soon as possible.”

Later, Grech clarified that “only four people” had communicated that they were positive for COVID. The cardinal said in total, 15 people were missing from that morning’s session, including several bishops and heads of dicasteries occupied with meetings.

At the beginning of the fourth general congregation Oct. 9, at which the Synod on Synodality began discussing section B1 of the Instrumentum Laboris, an organizer asked participants to register their presence by using their tablet to scan a QR code on their badge. The organizer then announced that “there are 346 participants present in the hall.”

There are a total of 364 synod members, including Pope Francis, who was also missing from the morning session of the synod. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told Vatican News the pope did not attend at the last minute because of “unforeseen commitments.”

Grech also said he had sought the opinion of doctors, and there was no reason to be alarmed about the spread of COVID at the synod. He invited participants to frequently sanitize their hands and for those with special health concerns to wear a face mask.

Verdict: We rate this claim false.

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