Pope Francis is 'slightly unwell' and cancels public appointments

Pope Francis is still unwell and has postponed all official audiences for Friday, the Vatican confirms without detailing his sickness

  • Francis has scrapped an audience with Microsoft, IBM and other tech executives
  • Yesterday he called off an appearance at a Mass with other clergymen in Rome
  • The Vatican says he is ‘slightly unwell’ but has offered no details on his illness 
  • Italy is facing Europe’s worst coronavirus crisis, though few cases are in Rome 

Pope Francis is still feeling ‘slightly unwell’ and has cancelled his official audiences today, the Vatican has said. 

The 83-year-old pontiff has scrapped an audience with tech chiefs including Microsoft and IBM executives today – a day after calling off an appearance at a Mass in Rome. 

Francis had appeared to have a cold during an Ash Wednesday service at the Vatican earlier this week.   

The Vatican has offered no details on the nature of the pope’s illness, except to say that he had a ‘slight indisposition’. 

‘Slightly unwell’: Pope Francis, pictured on Ash Wednesday this week when he appeared to have a cold, has scrapped his official audiences today 

Pope Francis kisses a young worshipper in St Peter’s Square and puts her hand on the girl’s cheek on Ash Wednesday 

Vatican press officer Matteo Bruni said Francis celebrated morning Mass as usual today and greeted participants at the end. 

However, he has cleared his diary of everything apart from meetings at the Santa Marta guest house where he lives. 

Francis had been due to receive executives from Microsoft, IBM and other technology companies on Friday morning.  

His speech to them from the Apostolic Palace was to have been streamed to guests at a Rome conference on ethics in artificial intelligence. 

The pope usually spends mornings making speeches to groups and meeting heads of state in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. 

But unlike previous popes, he chose not to live in its spacious papal apartments and opted for simple quarters in Santa Marta. 

Yesterday Francis called off a scheduled visit to the St John Lateran basilica across town, where he was due to meet with Rome clergy. 

Pope Francis has cancelled his events and is feeling ‘slightly unwell’, two days after he was pictured coughing and blowing his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass

Pope Francis caresses a child’s cheek as he takes part in his weekly general audience at the Vatican, a day before missing an engagement due to illness

Some worshippers were wearing face masks as a precaution amid a severe outbreak of coronavirus in Italy

The faithful wear face masks as they wait for Francis arrival in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience

The pope had been seen coughing and blowing his nose during the Ash Wednesday Mass this week.  

The same day, he shook hands with worshippers in St Peter’s Square as he voiced his sympathy with coronavirus victims. 

Only a few of the 12,000 or so faithful who turned out to see him on Saint Peter’s Square were wearing face masks.

But the 83-year-old Francis did not shy away from shaking hands with members of the congregation – and even kissed some of the children present.

However, some clergymen seemed reluctant to kiss his ring or embrace him.  

Francis is in generally good health and has undertaken a series of gruelling foreign trips in his seven years as leader of the Catholic Church.

He lost part of one lung as a young man because of a respiratory illness.  

Pope Francis kisses a child at the end of his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City

Pope Francis poses with faithful from Iraq in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly audience

Several people in the crowd wore face masks to protect themselves against infection as they waited to see Francis on Wednesday

Earlier in the day Francis had met with crowds in St Peter’s Square where he touched hands and kissed faces, despite warnings over coronavirus

Italy is in the grip of the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, which has infected 650 people in the country so far.  

Seventeen people have died in an outbreak centred on northern Italy, although a few cases have been detected in Rome. 

All of those who have died so far in Italy were either elderly or had pre-existing medical conditions. 

Twelve regions have reported at least one case of the virus, including Sicily at the country’s southern tip. 

Hotel bookings in the northern city of Milan have plummeted to 20 percent, compared with nearly 90 percent normally at this time of year.

Even in Rome, more than 50 percent of bookings have been cancelled until the end of March, hotel association Federalberghi said. 

The government has stopped all movement in and out of 11 towns in two regions in the north – Lombardy and Veneto – in a bid to stop the contagion spreading. 

Some Lent Ash Wednesday services were cancelled or limited in areas of northern Italy hit by the spread of coronavirus.     

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