Pope not infected by the virus

Pope Francis, who canceled a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy because he is suffering from a cold, has tested negative for coronavirus, the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported on Tuesday.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said he had no immediate comment on the report. The 83-year-old Roman Catholic leader, who had part of one lung removed because of an illness decades ago, also canceled most audiences last week.

Pope Francis said Sunday he would not be taking part in a planned six-day spiritual retreat south of Rome after coming down with a “cold”.

The 83-year-old pontiff suffered two coughing spells that forced him to turn away from the crowd and cover his mouth with his fist on a windy and cloudy day on Saint Peter’s Square.

“Unfortunately, a cold forced me not to take part this year,” he said after reciting the traditional Angelus Prayer and addressing the unfolding migrant crisis on Turkey’s border with Greece.

The annual retreat will still start Sunday but only include members of the Roman Curia administration team of the Holy See.

The pope will be staying home while the rest of Italy battles Europe’s worst outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has spread from China to every continent except for Antarctica.

The number of cases in Italy surpassed 1,000 on Saturday and the toll continues to mount.