February 28, 2020|7:31am|UpdatedFebruary 28, 2020 | 3:52pm
Pope Francis remained ill with an apparent cold on Friday — and canceled official audiences for a second day, Vatican officials announced.
The 83-year-old pontiff celebrated morning Mass as usual and greeted congregants at the end, the Vatican said. He planned to go on with his private meeting schedule, but opted to cancel his official audiences.
“The Holy Father celebrated Mass this morning and at the end, as usual, greeted the participants, but decided to postpone today’s official audiences,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Friday,the Vatican News reported. “The meetings on the agenda at Casa Santa Marta continue regularly.”
The Vatican has not said exactly what the pope came down with, but he appeared to have a cold as he coughed and blew his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass.
On Thursday,he nixed 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.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep through Italy — with 650 people infected and 17 dead. More than 400 of the cases occurred in the country’s northern Lombardy region.
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.
Francis has not specifically met with coronavirus sufferers, but shook hands with the faithful in the front row during the audience. He also kissed a baby during his popemobile spin through St. Peter’s Square and greeted visiting bishops.
But the clergy members appeared to refrain from kissing his ring or embracing him as they normally would.
The Argentine pope has generally been in good health. He lost part of a lung as a young man due to a respiratory illness, and also suffers from sciatica.
With Post wires