Slovak bishop who met Pope Francis last week tests positive for COVID

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in Presov, Slovakia, September 14, 2021. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Slovak bishop of the Greek-Catholic Church, who met Pope Francis when the pontiff visited the central European country last week, tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-quarantine, the church said.

Pope Francis visited Hungary and Slovakia between Sept. 12-15, which was his first trip since having surgery in July.

He presided at a Divine Liturgy, a Byzantine rite used by Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, held outside in Presov in eastern Slovakia on Sept. 14, which the bishop attended.

"The Greek-Catholic bishop of Presov, Jan Babjak, tested positive for coronavirus on Sept. 18. He went into self-quarantine immediately. He is vaccinated, and he shows only mild symptoms of the illness," the church said on Monday.

The Bishops Conference of Slovakia has informed the Vatican, a spokesman said. Pope Francis is fully vaccinated.

Slovakia, like other countries in Europe, is bracing for a new wave of COVID-19 cases after the pandemic hit hard at the end of 2020 and early in 2021 in the nation of 5.5 million.

About half of the adult population is fully vaccinated against COVID, which is the fifth lowest rate in Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

On Monday, Slovakia registered 880 new cases of COVID-19, its second highest daily tally since April but still below levels that reached into the thousands on many days at the height of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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