Story at a glance

  • Italian media reports Pope Francis tested negative for the novel coronavirus that has hit Italy.
  • Pope Francis missed several events last week.
  • At least 52 Italians have died so far and more than 2,000 have been infected.

Pope Francis has tested negative for the novel coronavirus after suffering a cold that led him to opt out of participating in a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy, according to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

The paper said Francis, 83, was tested as he has been suffering from a cough, slight temperature, a sore throat and chills, prompting him to cancel several events last week and sparking speculation in Italian media that he may have contracted the virus that has spread through the country. 

Francis was expected to take part in the week-long retreat with senior Vatican officials that started Sunday night at a Church residence south of Rome, but announced he would be following it from his residence in a Vatican guest house. 

The pontiff’s illness comes at a time when Italy is fighting an outbreak of the coronavirus. The virus has killed 52 Italians so far and infected more than 2,000 others as of early Tuesday. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted Monday during a news conference that Italy is one of four countries that is of greatest concern. 

Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed more than 3,100 people, the vast majority in mainland China. There are now more than 90,000 global cases, with infections in more than 70 countries. In the U.S., at least six patients have died, all in Washington state.

The Messaggero report did not specify when Francis had been tested for the virus. 

Published on Mar 03, 2020