'Slightly ill' Pope Francis expresses closeness to the sick as Vatican reports first Coronavirus case

  • Pope Francis was forced to cancel a planned mass at the St John Lateran Basilica

  • The Holy Seer is still recovering from a 'common cold'

  • Rome has cancelled 'all non-sacramental' activities but Eucharist celebrations will continue

Even as Vatican reported its first case of the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID 19), Pope Francis - days after testing negative for the Wuhan virus but continues to be slightly ill, took to Twitter to express his "closeness" to those who are ill and the healthcare workers.

The Vatican on Friday confirmed its first coronavirus case after a patient, who is yet to be identified, tested positive for COVID-19 at a clinic within the city-state. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the new case was diagnosed on Thursday, following which all non-essential services at the clinic had been suspended while the premises are disinfected.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis Wikimedia Commons

There are no details on the first Vatican coronavirus patient who tested positive for the COVID 19 virus. Bruni gave no details on whether It is yet to be ascertained whether the person who tested positive was a Vatican employee living in Italy or it was clergy or guards who live inside its walls.

Pope Francis in a Twitter message expressed his closeness to those sick and healthcare workers.

"I wish to express again my closeness to those who are ill with the #coronavirus and to healthcare workers who are caring for them, as well as to civil authorities and all those involved in assisting patients and in containing the spread of the virus," Pope Francis tweeted on his official Twitter account - @Pontifex

Pope Francis only 'slightly ill'

On the health of the Pope who was forced to cancel a planned Mass in Rome on Thursday at the St John Lateran Basilica, the Vatican Press office said that he was only slightly ill.

The Vatican said the 83-year-old pontiff had a 'slight indisposition.' "The cold with which the Holy Father was diagnosed is running its due course. He continues to celebrate Holy Mass daily and follow the Spiritual Exercises, as we have reported in recent days," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

Vatican services affected

Post the news of the first coronavirus case, the Diocese of Rome decided to cancel all "non-sacramental activities" until March 15.

Catechism classes, marriage preparation courses, retreats, pilgrimages, and almost all group activities have been cancelled.

Even though Eucharistic celebrations are expected to continue in the churches in Rome, the priests are being discouraged from inviting the faithful to exchange the kiss of peace. Also as an added precaution, the Holy Water fonts also have been emptied.

Coronavirus continues to ravage Italy

Despite stringent measures, Italy reported an additional 41 deaths taking its total number of coronavirus deaths to 148, while more than 3,800 people are infected with the COVID 19 virus.

The first COVID 19 cases were reported in Italy on February 21, and within days after that, the Italian government sealed-ff 11 towns and shut down schools, universities, libraries, theatres and museums across the north of the country.