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Coughing pope cancels participating in Lenten retreat due to cold

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Posted at 2:05 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 14:05:28-05

A coughing Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered for the traditional Sunday blessing that he is canceling his participation at a week-long spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold.

It is the first time in his seven-year papacy that he has missed the spiritual exercises that he initiated early in his pontificate to mark the start of each Lenten season.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who lost part of a lung to a respiratory illness as a young man, has canceled several official engagements this week as he battled an apparent cold.

His weekly appearance Sunday to pilgrims from a window high above St. Peter’s Square was the first time he has been seen publicly since Ash Wednesday, when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during Mass.