Pope Francis, ‘feeling slightly unwell,’ cancels meeting with Roman clergy

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 26, 2020. (CNS photo/Cristian Gennari, pool)Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 26, 2020. (CNS photo/Cristian Gennari, pool)

Pope Francis is “feeling slightly unwell” (“leve indisposizione” in Italian), he has a cold and cancelled his meeting with Roman clergy at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran scheduled for this Thursday morning Feb. 27, the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said in a statement given to the Vatican press corps shortly before the event was due to happen.

“He preferred to remain in the area close to Santa Marta,” the Vatican guesthouse where he lives, “but his other meetings proceed regularly,” Mr. Bruni added. His words were intended to downplay the concern that his condition might be in any way serious or that he could have contracted the coronavirus that has hit so many people in Italy—one of the countries with the most victims after China, South Korea and Japan.

Advertisement

The pope’s spokesman tried to downplay the concern that his condition might be in any way serious. 

The 83-year old pope celebrated Mass as usual in the chapel of Sant Marta this morning and held some private audiences. Yesterday, however, he held his weekly public audience in Saint Peter’s Square, instead of indoors as has been the case up to now. He kissed some children, and then as he usually does, he shook hands with several people. Last evening he traveled across the city by car to the Aventine hill to participate in the traditional Ash Wednesday procession and to celebrate Mass in the church of Santa Sabina, which was attended by many cardinals and bishops, as well as members of the Dominican order who are in charge of that church and lay faithful. His voice then seemed to indicate that he was catching a cold, and this morning’s news would seem to confirm that. When the ceremony ended last evening, it was very cold, wet and windy, so he could have suffered the ill-effects of that too.

News of the pope’s “indisposition” naturally sparked some concern in Vatican circles and in Rome as it came at a time when 474 people in Italy have already contracted the coronavirus, including several children, and 12 people (most of them elderly) have died as a result. It should be remembered, however, that the virus has been mainly limited to the provinces of northern Italy, where schools, universities as well as the Milan cathedral and La Scala opera house have been closed, the Venice carnival was stopped, and there was panic buying of food in supermarkets. Masses have been cancelled in the archdiocese of Milan and some other places, but not so in Rome.

The virus has so far not reached to Rome, except for three Chinese visitors who were hospitalized and subsequently cured. Public services, schools, universities and churches are open and functioning normally, but not surprisingly there was a visible decrease in the number of people attending the papal audience yesterday. Romans are on the alert, however, concerned that the virus could come here too.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag stands amid Israeli border police during a protest against Israeli settlements and U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan. The protest was in the Jordan Valley, part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Feb. 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Raneen Sawafta, Reuters)
The late-evening statement signaled the Vatican’s wish to let the whole world know that it fundamentally disagrees with any annexation.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 01, 2020
Could the ruling really mark the end of Blaine amendments?
Nicholas D. SawickiJuly 01, 2020
Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in 2019. Vatican prosecutors have ordered the seizure of documents and computers from the administrative offices of St. Peter’s Basilica in an apparently new investigation into financial irregularities in the Holy See. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed a special commissioner to modernize and reorganize those same administrative and technical offices, improve transparency, and update their statutes.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 01, 2020
This week on “Inside the Vatican," Colleen Dulle speaks with Phyllis Zagano about the church’s history not only of ordaining women deacons, but also the conversation around ordaining them again.
Colleen DulleJuly 01, 2020