Pope Francis cancels audiences because of illness

Pope Francis cancelled his morning audiences Friday because of a cold or flu, the first time the industrious pope is known to have slowed his busy schedule due to illness.

76-year-old pontiff ill with cold or flu; will still preside over Friday mass

Pope Francis, left, met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, right, on Thursday but had to cancel his morning audiences on Friday because of illness. News agencies variously reported that he had the cold or the flu. (Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

Pope Francis cancelled his morning audiences Friday because of a cold, the first time the industrious pope is known to have slowed his busy schedule due to illness.

The Vatican said the 76-year-old pontiff, who lost most of one of his lungs due to an infection in his youth, took the morning off to rest at his Vatican hotel. He kept his afternoon appointment, however, presiding over the ordination of a new bishop in St. Peter's Basilica.

Though he looked a bit bleary, Francis celebrated the mass with his typical prayerful demeanour, delivering his homily in a clear voice, standing at the lectern and even ad-libbing to offer personal reflections to the new bishop.

Cancelled appointments

In the morning, Francis cancelled his four appointments with Vatican officials, leading the Vatican to reissue a daily bulletin that had reported the audiences took place, a first for this pope.

Francis had a busy day on Thursday, making his first state visit to the Italian president across town. He appeared tired but otherwise in good spirits during the two-hour visit.

The Vatican typically restricts information about the health of popes, citing their privacy. The Holy See only confirmed that Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson's disease after he died.

Pope Benedict XVI enjoyed robust health during his seven-year pontificate, only missing a scheduled appearance after he broke his wrist in a fall in 2009.

Francis doesn't enjoy such good health. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as he was known then, had wanted to be a missionary as a young priest but was counselled against it by his superior in Argentina because of the toll it would have taken on his frail health.

To this day, Francis speaks softly — barely over a whisper — and doesn't sing.

Vatican No. 2 also ill

The Vatican's no. 2, the secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, has been recovering for a month from unspecified urgent surgery that made him a no-show at his own welcome ceremony Oct. 15.

The Vatican has yet to reveal what has been ailing Parolin, except to say he was treated by the hospital's hepatobiliary department; the body's hepatobiliary system refers to the liver, gall bladder and bile ducts.

Officials have said Parolin, 58, is expected in Rome on Saturday.

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