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Pope Francis during Ash Wednesday Mass in 2019. Photo: Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Pope Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican, despite the cancellation of religious services elsewhere in Italy thanks to an ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, AP reports.

Why it matters: Mass gatherings in close proximity — like religious services and sporting events — could become an easy way for the virus to spread as the outbreak widens across the globe.

  • Venice, which has a number of confirmed coronavirus cases, cancelled its main Ash Wednesday Mass at the landmark St. Mark's Basilica.

The state of play: Italy has the fourth-largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 322.

  • Francis still kissed a child and shook hands with pilgrims during his usual audience in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square.
  • He also directly addressed the outbreak during his remarks, saying, "I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them, as well as the civil authorities and all those who are working to help patients and stop the contagion."

The big picture: Taking on the virus is an issue for religious leaders across the globe.

  • Spiking coronavirus cases in Iran are raising concerns that the disease "infiltrated" a popular pilgrimage route for Shiite Muslims in the city of Qom, The Guardian reports.
  • Mosques in Iraq have been instructed to give advice on how to best avoid the coronavirus during their Friday sermons, Reuters notes.

Go deeper: Global coronavirus cases spread as U.S. soldier tests positive in South Korea

Go deeper

Trump bump: NYT and WaPo digital subscriptions tripled since 2016

Data: Axios reporting and public filings; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Times and The Washington Post have very different strategies for building the subscription news company of the future.

The big picture: Sources tell Axios that the Post is nearing 3 million digital subscribers, a 50% year-over-year growth in subscriptions and more than 3x the number of digital-only subscribers it had in 2016. The New York Times now has more than 6 million digital-only subscribers, nearly 3x its number from 2016.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Biden's emerging climate orbit

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

As of Tuesday morning, we know a lot more about President-elect Joe Biden climate personnel orbit, even as picks for agencies like EPA and DOE are outstanding, so here are a few early conclusions.

Why it matters: They're the highest-level names yet announced who will have a role in what Biden is promising will be a far-reaching climate and energy agenda.

Janet Yellen is back

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

A face familiar to Wall Street is back as a central player that this time will need to steer the country out of a deep economic crisis.

Driving the news: President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary.