Pope Francis skipped the week-long Lenten spiritual retreat with senior Vatican officials near Rome for the first time in his papacy since his election in 2013. The Vatican said that the decision to skip the retreat was a last-minute one considering the health of the Pope who was seen coughing and sneezing during his first public appearance in four days.
The Vatican had earlier said that Pope Francis was suffering from “slight indisposition” that forced him to avoid public appearance. Pope was battling an apparent cold that led to the cancellation of several official engagements and finally appeared on March 1 where he said that a cold prevented him to participate in the retreat.
The Vatican has not yet revealed the nature of Pope's illness, however, he fell sick amid alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak. While speaking to an international media outlet, Matteo Bruni dismissed the speculations that the Pope was anything more than slightly unwell. He reportedly said that there is no evidence that would lead to diagnosing anything but a “slight indisposition”.
The 83-year-old had lost part of his lung to respiratory illness in his early 20s, however, he has never cancelled so many official audiences or events in his seven years of papacy. He was expected to travel to a Church residence south of Rome for the annual week-long Lenten spiritual retreat but the plan was cancelled in the last minute.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis reportedly continued working from his residence at the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel. The Vatican had stressed that the Pope celebrated Mass each morning, greeted attendees at the end, and then proceeded to continue working from home. However, two of his planned official audiences including formal affairs in the Apostolic Palace where he would have delivered a speech and greeted a great number of people at the end were cancelled.
(With AP inputs)