Pope cancels audiences for third day with apparent cold


World, Europe

Vatican City said it was only a 'slight indisposition'

Pope Francis attends the Ash Wednesday mass on February 26, 2020, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. Pope Francis postponed his official appointments on February 29 and was working from home, the Vatican said, a day after cancelling a scheduled appearance at mass because of "a mild ailment". Francis, 83, had appeared earlier in the week to be suffering from a cold. He was seen blowing his nose and coughing during the Ash Wednesday service, and his voice sounded hoarse. (AFP)

Vatican City: Pope Francis cancelled official engagements for the third day in a row today as he battled an apparent cold.

The 83-year-old pope, who lost part of a lung to a respiratory illness as a young man, has never cancelled so many official audiences or events in his seven-year papacy.

Francis is, however, continuing to work from his residence at the Vatican's Santa Marta Hotel and is receiving people in private, the Vatican press office said.

On Sunday, Francis is expected to leave the Vatican with top Holy See bureaucrats for a week of spiritual exercises in the Roman countryside, an annual retreat that the pope attends at the start of each Lent.

Francis last appeared in public on Wednesday, when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during an Ash Wednesday Mass.

The following day, he cancelled a Mass across town with Roman priests and on Friday, skipped an audience with participants of a Vatican conference on artificial intelligence.

The Vatican has stressed that Francis has celebrated Mass each morning and greeted attendees at the end, and then proceeded to continue working from home.

The Vatican hasn't revealed the nature of Francis' illness, saying only that he has a "slight indisposition."

Francis' illness, though, has come amid general alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak, which has sickened more than 800 people, most in northern Italy.