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POPE Francis cancelled a church service today after he was struck down with illness.
The 83-year-year-old pontiff was not well enough to attend the mass, although there is no suggestion at this stage he has coronavirus as the outbreak in Italy topped 500 cases.
He was due to worship today with clergy at St John Lateran basilica on the other side of Rome, but stayed in the Santa Marta guesthouse where he lives in the Vatican.
Spokesman Matteo Bruni said: “Because of a slight indisposition, he preferred to stay inside Santa Marta.
“All other commitments will go ahead.”
It is not clear what his symptoms were, but he was seen blowing his nose and coughing during an Ash Wednesday service in St Peter’s yesterday.
Earlier yesterday – the first day of Lent – Francis appeared in good spirits as he greeted a large crowd at a general audience in St Peter’s Square.
Many of the faithful wore face masks, but others did not as they embraced the Holy Father.
Francis stopped to shake hands with worshippers in the front row and kissed a child during his popemobile spin through the square.
He also greeted visiting bishops, but they appeared to refrain from kissing his ring or embracing him as they normally would.