The public returned to St Peter's Square in the Vatican to receive a blessing from Pope Francis for the first time in nearly three months as he called for a year of reflection on the environment.

Only a few dozen people went to the square, which was reopened on Monday along with St Peter's Basilica following coronavirus lockdowns.

They kept to social distancing rules and most wore masks.

Pope Francis delivered his message via the internet from his library, as those in the square watched on large screens, and then went to the window for the silent blessing.

For the past three months, he has blessed an empty square.

Today is the fifth anniversary of his encyclical "Laudato Si" on the care of the environment, which called for a reduction of fossil fuels and backed the majority scientific consensus that human activity is partly to blame for global warming.

He urged Catholics to reflect on the environment for the next 12 months, how they can better protect it and how to help those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.