Pope Francis Tested for Coronavirus Days After Coughing and Blowing His Nose During Mass

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Pope Francis has been tested for coronavirus after being unable to attend a number of events.

The 83-year-old head of the Catholic Church, who often comes into close contact with the public when he blesses them, was looking under the weather last week during an Ash Wednesday service, dabbing his nose frequently with a cloth.

The following day, he was unable to attend a Mass he was due to celebrate at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome marking the start of Lent, Catholic news publication Crux Now reported.

Matteo Bruni, the Holy See press office director, said last Thursday that the pope had stayed in his room close to Santa Marca where he lives at the Vatican “due to a slight indisposition,” the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Service at Santa Sabina Basilica, on February 26, 2020 in Vatican City, Vatican. The pontiff has been tested for coronavirus after displaying cold symptoms.
Vatican pool/Getty Images

The pope was also unable to give a speech at the Apostolic Palace and had to cancel two other audiences.

During his next major public appearance on Sunday, he told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that for the first time in his papacy, he would not be able to attend a spiritual Lenten retreat near Rome with senior Vatican officials.

He said: “Unfortunately a cold prevents me from participating this year. I will be following the meditation from here.”

The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported that the pontiff, who had lost part of a lung following a respiratory illness when he was young, had a swab test that came back negative. Newsweek has contacted the Vatican press office for further comment.