Pope Francis has cancelled a church service at St John Lateran basilica today after he had come down with an illness.
The 83-year-year-old pontiff was not in a good enough state attend the mass today, although there is no current indication that he has coronavirus as the outbreak in Italy has reached over 500 cases.
Instead of worshipping with clergy at St John Lateran basilica on the other side of Rome, he stayed in his Vatican home, the Santa Marta guesthouse.
Spokesperson for the Pope, Matteo Bruni has said:
“Because of a slight indisposition, he preferred to stay inside Santa Marta.
“All other commitments will go ahead.”
It is not yet clear what his symptoms are, but yesterday during an Ash Wednesday service, he was seen blowing his nose and covering his mouth as he coughed. Despite this, Francis appeared in good spirits as he greeted a large crowd at a general audience in St Peter’s Square.
Many of the faithful wore face masks, but others did not as they embraced the Holy Father. Francis stopped to shake hands with those in the front row and kissed a child during the festivities.
He also greeted visiting bishops, but they appeared to refrain from the regular protocol of kissing his ring and embracing him.
It comes as Italy is reeling from a coronavirus outbreak, the worst outside Asia. The death toll from rose to 14 today with 528 cases – including a singer at the famous La Scala opera house.
Rome currently has had three known patients, all of them since recovered.
Some Ash Wednesday services were cancelled yesterday across northern Italy, the centre of the outbreak in Europe.
The Argentine pope has, for the most part, enjoyed good health throughout his time as pontiff, but he lost part of one lung after suffering TB as a young man in Buenos Aires, and suffers from sciatica, which makes walking difficult.