Pope Francis on Sunday said he was cancelling a planned six-day spiritual retreat south of Rome after coming down with a “cold”.
“Unfortunately, a cold forced me not to take part this year,” the 83-year-old pontiff said after coughing a couple of times during his weekly Sunday appearance from a Vatican window in front of supporters.
The cancellation of the retreat, which was supposed to start Sunday, came as Italy battles Europe’s worst outbreak of the new coronavirus that has spread from China across much of the world.
The number of cases in Italy surpassed 1,000 on Saturday.
There have been 29 confirmed deaths and 105 people were receiving intensive care treatment in hospital — all of them in three adjacent northern regions near Milan.
The Vatican quickly shot down speculation that the pope himself had come down with COVID-19.
“There is no evidence to suggest a diagnosis of anything other than a slight ailment,” a Vatican spokesman on Sunday.