Pope coughs and sneezes through Sunday blessing as he battles cold in coronavirus-hit Italy – The Sun

POPE Francis was seen coughing and sneezing at the Vatican today after taking four days off to battle a cold in coronavirus-hit Italy. 

The Pontiff was last seen on Wednesday due to cold symptoms but made a public appearance when he delivered his Sunday blessing at St Peter's Square – but officials insisted it is not the deadly bug.

During the Ash Wednesday service, he was seen constantly blowing his nose and sounded croaky from a sore throat.

On Sunday, he appeared at the window of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace  for his weekly noon message and blessing – and announced he will cancel a week-long Lent retreat with Vatican officials.

He told thousands of followers from his studio balcony: “Unfortunately a cold will force me not take part this year (in the retreat). I will follow the meditations from here."

His cancellation is the first time he has skipped the retreat since he took over from Pope Benedict in March 2013.

So far the country has recorded 1,694 cases of coronavirus as the deadly bug continues to sweep through Italy and other mainland European nations.

On Sunday, Italy’s Civil Protection Agency announced five people have died since Saturday after contracting the virus – bringing the death toll up to 34.

But despite the outbreak of the airborne illness, Pope Francis’ spokesman Matteo Bruni dismissed speculation that Francis was anything more than slightly unwell.

He said in a statement: “There is no evidence that would lead to diagnosing anything but a mild indisposition."

According to Reuters, the Pontiff is missing a part of one lung which was removed when he was in his early 20s in his home country of Buenos Aires following an illness.

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