Pope Francis Coughing During Ash Wednesday Mass Sparks Concern as Coronavirus Grips Italy

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A day after expressing solidarity with coronavirus sufferers, Pope Francis canceled a mass in Rome because he is sick, although not seriously, officials said. 

“Because of a slight indisposition, he preferred to stay inside Santa Marta,” the Vatican said, referring to the Vatican residence where he lives.

Officials haven't said what he has come down with, but he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass and spoke with a slightly hoarse voice. The canceled mass was scheduled to take place Thursday.

His illness comes as Italy struggles to contain the novel coronavirus. More than 400 people have been sickened and 12 people have died there.

On Wednesday, the Pope spoke out in support of people who have contracted the illness and those caring for them in front of an audience in St. Peter's Square.

Meanwhile, more than 80,000 cases have been reported around the world. Many are concentrated in China, where the virus originated.

Health officials in the United States have warned that the public should be prepared to see more cases across the country.

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