Pope Francis in hospital with respiratory infection
Pope Francis has a respiratory infection and will require hospitalisation for several days, the Vatican confirmed on Wednesday night.
Earlier in the day, the Vatican had said the 86-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church had been taken to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for “previously scheduled checks”.
However, Italian media reported that the pontiff was suffering from “heart problems” and “breathing difficulties” and had been taken to hospital by ambulance.
On Wednesday evening, the Pope’s spokesman said: “In the last few days, Pope Francis has complained of breathing difficulties.
“This afternoon he was admitted to Gemelli Hospital for medical checks. The results of these checks showed a respiratory infection, not Covid-19, which will require several days of hospital therapy.”
At least three leading Italian newspapers reported that Pope Francis had started to suffer from breathing difficulties and heart problems after his weekly audience on Wednesday morning.
He was photographed grimacing while getting into and out of his white “popemobile” during the audience in St Peter’s Square.
Vatican sources said the Pope’s appointments for Thursday and Friday had been cancelled. His admission to hospital comes just days before Holy Week and the lead-up to Easter, traditionally one of the busiest times for the Pope.
He is due to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, followed next week by Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9.
Papal aides and security staff were sent to the hospital in anticipation of Francis spending at least a night there, Italian media reported.
He was given an MRI scan to check on the health of his lungs, reports said. The results of that and various other tests were encouraging, according to sources cited by Ansa, the national news agency.
Pope Francis, who has been pontiff for a decade, suffers from knee problems that have often forced him to use a wheelchair.
He had part of one lung removed when he was a young man because of a respiratory infection. He has said in the past that he might resign, like his predecessor Benedict XVI, if ailing health makes it impossible for him to continue doing his job.
Pope Benedict, who died on Dec 31, aged 95, became the first pontiff to resign in six centuries when he stepped down in 2013.
In December, he revealed that he has signed a letter of resignation to be used if he is unable to perform his duties for health reasons.
In the summer of 2021, at the same hospital in Rome, he underwent a serious operation in which part of his colon was removed, after which he spent 10 days in the care of doctors.
Despite his age and health problems, he has been an indefatigable traveller, embarking on official visits earlier this year to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is scheduled to visit Hungary next month.