Just 24 hours after he expressed public support for the people suffering from coronavirus around the world, Pope Francis has fallen ill.
“I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to healthcare workers who are caring for them,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday. He was visibly ill during the Ash Wednesday Mass, coughing and blowing his nose. And while he shook hands — and even kissed an infant — most parishioners appeared reluctant to physically interact.
On Thursday, the 82-year-old pontiff was forced to cancel a penitential Mass at St. John Lateran basilica that would have marked the beginning of Lent. While he still plans to continue his work, Francis “preferred to stay near [his residence in] Santa Marta,” while he is under the weather.
So far, at least 400 cases of “Covid-19” have been confirmed in Italy, killing 12. Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has urged the public to “stop the panic” around the growing pandemic despite fears about food and available medical care.
“Panic is a completely unjustified reaction that compromises the overall efficiency of the system and triggers regrettable speculations on the prices of some products,” he said. “The food supply will be ensured with appropriate measures, especially in the ‘cluster’ areas. Calm is brought back through punctual and transparent communication.”