Pope Francis has come down with a “slight indisposition,” forcing him to cancel a planned Mass in Rome, just a day after he expressed his solidarity with coronavirus sufferers around the world — and as the disease continues to spread across Italy.
The illness has forced the 82-year-old pontiff to nix a penitential Mass, marking the start of Lent, that he’d planned to celebrate at the St. John Lateran basilica across town with Roman clergy, the Vatican said.
Francis will proceed with the rest of his planned work Thursday, but “preferred to stay near Santa Marta,” the Vatican hotel where he lives, officials said.
The Vatican has not specified the nature of the pope’s illness, but he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass.
Meanwhile, 400 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Italy, and 12 people have died. Most of the cases have been reported in northern Italy.
Three cases were reported in Rome, but each person has already recovered.
During a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, the pope expressed his support for coronavirus sufferers.
“I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health care workers who are caring for them,” he said, according to Vatican News.
In related development, Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has now contracted the coronavirus, state media has reported.
Ms. Ebtekar joins a growing number of at least 254 people who have tested positive for the infection in the country; 26 of whom have been killed.