Pope Francis cancelled a planned participation in a Thursday morning Mass at the St John Lateran basilica in Rome due to what his team called a “slight” illness. That announcement came the day after he interacted with members of the public as part of ceremonies for Ash Wednesday, which kicks off a period of traditional introspection prior to the holiday of Easter. The Pope’s apparent illness has emerged as Rome and Italy at large battle the spread of the Coronavirus — in the country alone, hundreds of cases have been reported, and several towns have been placed under quarantine, as has been carried out on a much larger scale in China, where the illness first emerged.
The Pope’s illness emerged “a day after he kissed heads and touched faces as he met with crowds in St Peter’s Square, saying he had solidarity with those suffering from coronavirus,” the Daily Mail notes. During Wednesday’s event, he could be seen seemingly already in the beginning throes of some kind of illness, the exact nature of which has not been publicly outlined by the Vatican. According to his team, he’d be continuing with plans inside Vatican City, just not traveling across the city.
During his Ash Wednesday remarks, Francis — who has often ended up on the opposite side of President Donald Trump on key social issues — criticized “verbal violence” that he says has gotten “amplified by the internet.” Trump, of course, is certainly an ardent perpetrator of that kind of cyberbullying.
Across the globe, tens of thousands of coronavirus cases have been reported, mostly in China — although just this week, the first community-transmitted case of the virus was reported in the United States. The virus’s so far documented fatality rate is up to the range of 2-3 percent, which is significantly higher than the fatality rate of the common flu — although the flu does claim the lives of many people on a yearly basis anyway. The Trump administration is slowly but surely rolling out a plan for combating the virus in the U.S., which so far includes a request for $2.5 billion in emergency funding.