The Pope, who expressed gratitude to Christians worldwide for their prayers for his health, will be unable to attend this Wednesday's general audience. Nor will he attend a Mass the same day in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of Consecrated Life.

Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said today on Vatican Radio that the Holy Father is grateful for the "prayers of the faithful and of all those who love him."

The flu is reportedly affecting 1.5 million people in Italy, according to Italian media.

Regarding the Pope canceling his appointments, Navarro Valls said: "Now I cannot foresee if it will be one day or three. Of course, it is a temporary postponement, short term."

John Paul II, who showed signs of flu on Sunday, suspended his audiences Monday, following medical advice. The flu has spread in Rome, where the winter cold has been relatively harsh.