Pope Francis blamed a nagging cold and obvious cough for missing an important Lenten spiritual retreat with senior Vatican officials that on Saturday evening officials said he would attend. Francis made the announcement Sunday, saying, “Unfortunately a cold will force me not take part this year. I will follow the meditations from here.” It will be the first time in his seven-year papacy to miss the event, which he launched after his election in March 2013. The 83-year-old pontiff, who has not been seen in public since Ash Wednesday services, paused twice to cough during his Sunday Angelus prayer from his window above St. Peter’s square which he delivers every Sunday at noon in Rome. This is the first health scare the ageing pope has had since his election. He is missing part of a lung he lost after an infection in his 20s but is generally thought to be in good health aside from sciatic nerve problems. The Vatican will not confirm whether he has been tested for coronavirus.
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