Pope Francis blows his nose as he leads the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians before Holy Week and Easter, on February 26, 2020, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
Pope Francis has reportedly cancelled a scheduled appearance at mass in Rome on Thursday because of “a mild ailment,” The Times of Israel reports that chief press officer Matteo Bruni said in a statement that “Due to a mild ailment, he preferred to stay in the vicinity of Saint Martha’s,” the guest house at the Vatican where the 83-year old pontiff lives.
Although the Vatican made no reference to the disease in its announcement, the pope was seen coughing and blowing his nose during the Ash Wednesday Mass.Earlier in the week pope Francis had met with crowds in St Peter's Square where he touched hands and kissed faces, saying he had solidarity with those suffering from coronavirus despite warnings over coronavirus.
Northern Italy is currently in the grips of a coronavirus outbreak, which has spread across the country. Cases have been confirmed in Rome, where the Vatican is located. Italy has confirmed more than 400 cases of the virus with 12 people dead so far, and Germany warns of the 'start of an epidemic' as Denmark and Estonia confirm first cases.
Although it has not not been officially confirmed if the pope has Coronavirus some of the symptons he is experiencing appears to match those widely reported by suffers, and includes respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
'I would like to express my closeness to the coronavirus patients and to the health workers who are treating them, as well as to the civil authorities,' Pope Francis said .