A coughing Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered for the traditional Sunday blessing that he is canceling his participation at a week-long spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold.
It is the first time in his seven-year papacy that he has missed the spiritual exercises that he initiated early in his ponitificate to mark the start of each Lenten season. Such retreats are typical Jesuits, an order to which he belongs.
The 83-year-old pontiff, who lost part of a lung to a respiratory illness as a young man, has canceled several official engagements this week as he battled an apparent cold. The Holy See press office has called it a “slight illness” without giving other details.
His weekly appearance Sunday to pilgrims from a window high above St. Peter’s Square was the first time he has been seen publicly since Ash Wednesday, when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during an Ash Wednesday Mass.
Francis paused twice while addressing the faithful.