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The Vatican tries to reduce questions about the pope’s health

ROME – On Tuesday the Vatican tried to put an end to the hypothesis that Pope Francis might have contracted the coronavirus, after almost a week of concern for the pope’s health amid the spread of the epidemic in Italy.

“The Holy Father’s cold diagnosed in recent days is running its course, with no symptoms attributable to other pathologies,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a statement Tuesday evening.

Bruni was responding to an Italian media report that the pope had been tested for coronavirus last week, with a negative result. The spokesman did not say whether the pope had actually been tested for the virus.

His statement recalled media speculation and incomplete Vatican disclosures that characterized Pope John Paul II’s health coverage for several years before his death in 2005.

Pope Francis was visibly ill on Wednesday last week when he spoke hoarse and blew his nose at Ash Wednesday Mass. For the next three days, he observed a limited work schedule, canceling speeches to large groups but continuing to hold private meetings in his residence, due to what the Vatican called a “slight indisposition”. It has been his longest job for health reasons since his election nearly seven years ago.

On Saturday, the pope was photographed while meeting Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, without either of them wearing a protective mask.

On Sunday, the pope appeared at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square for the traditional noon Angelus prayer. He coughed twice in 10 minutes and seemed slightly tired but alert, improvising remarks about the devil and the difficult situation of war refugees. He announced that he had a cold and that he would miss a week-long retreat for Vatican officials who were due to start that evening.

“I will follow the meditations from here,” he said.

Bruni, the spokesman, later said that “there is no evidence to diagnose to the pope anything other than the cold of which he spoke this morning”.

The pope was removed from part of a lung following a battle with a young man’s respiratory disease.

The pope’s schedule for this week had been canceled long ago due to the scheduled withdrawal, so he didn’t have to cancel any other appointments during his recovery. On Tuesday evening, Mr. Bruni said that the pope continued to celebrate mass every morning in his residence.

Write to Francesco X. Rocca at [email protected]

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