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Pope ‘tests negative for coronavirus’

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Pope Francis blows his nose as he leads the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians before Holy Week and Easter, on February 26, 2020, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Pope Francis, who is suffering from a cold, has tested negative for the coronavirus, an Italian newspaper reported Tuesday, as Italy battles Europe’s worst outbreak.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni did not respond to a request for comment on the report in the Messaggero newspaper.

Francis cancelled a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy this weekend, after axing all public meetings at the end of last week over the cold.

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The new coronavirus has spread from China across much of the world, with Italy among the worst affected with over 2,000 people infected and 52 deaths.

The 83-year-old pontiff has been seen coughing and blowing his nose, but the Vatican on Sunday quickly shot down speculation that the pope himself had come down with COVID-19.

The Messaggero report did not say when Francis had been tested for the disease.

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