Papal ping-pong? Vatican opens summer camp amid virus

A general view shows a deserted St. Peter's Square before Pope Francis gives his blessing from the window of the Apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter's Square after holding a private live streamed weekly Angelus prayer from the palace's library on May 17, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is getting into the summer camp business, with ping pong tables taking over the Vatican auditorium, a giant pool in the Vatican Gardens and team sports on the Vatican helipad.

The Holy See is offering a month of tennis, swimming, games and sports for the children of Vatican employees to help compensate for the lack of normal camp and travel options as a result of the coronavirus.

The Salesian religious order is teaming up with an outfit that runs other day camps in Rome to turn the Vatican Gardens over to about 100 kids in July.

The Vatican said all the social-distancing and other hygiene measures required for COVID-19 protection will be implemented, and that the projected numbers of campers had been reduced to prevent crowding.

The Vatican News online portal said Pope Francis himself had “thought about the mothers who work, about the families of Holy See employees,” and authorized the Vatican City State administration to organize a camp for staffers’ kids.

Most Vatican employees are priests, but laymen and women also work in the walled city-state in the center of Rome.

Italian schools closed in early March as a result of the virus lockdown and will not reopen until September. The Italian government has authorized summer camps, but the dearth of options and ongoing concern about contagion has left Italian families scrambling, particularly since their usual go-to summertime caregivers — grandparents — are considered too at risk of infection.

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