Coughing pope cancels participating in Lenten retreat

Vatican Pope Sick

In this picture taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, Pope Francis wipes his nose during the Mass opening Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians before Holy Week and Easter, inside the Basilica of Santa Sabina in . Pope Francis is sick and skipped a planned Mass with clergy across town on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, officials said. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — 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.

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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 , when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during an Mass.

Francis paused twice while addressing the faithful.

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