Pope Francis has been admitted to hospital with a respiratory infection after experiencing difficulty breathing in recent days, and will remain in the Rome hospital for several days of treatment, the Vatican said.
“In the past days, Pope Francis had lamented some respiratory difficulties and this afternoon was brought to the Gemelli Hospital for a medical check,” Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said in a statement on Wednesday.
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“The result of these [tests] highlighted a respiratory infection (excluding COVID-19 infections) that will require several days of appropriate hospital treatment,” Bruni said.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expressed his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”
The 86-year-old pontiff’s schedule for tomorrow and Friday has been cancelled, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, adding that the pope already had a chest CT scan and that his blood’s saturation levels were fine. No heart problems have been detected, it added.
Overall, the situation should not be of particular concern, medical sources told ANSA.
In a previous statement, Bruni said that the visit to the hospital had already been planned.
Held weekly general audience
It remains unclear when Francis will return to the Vatican, where Palm Sunday and Holy Week celebrations leading up to Easter will be held next week.
The Argentine-born leader of the Roman Catholic Church held his weekly general audience on St Peter’s Square in front of thousands of believers on Wednesday morning.
He was scheduled to give a television interview afterward, but had to cancel and was taken to the hospital by ambulance instead.
Television news crews, reporters and press photographers were posted outside the hospital on Wednesday evening, where they watched the room on the 10th floor where the pontiff is staying.
In July 2021, Francis had intestinal surgery at the same hospital and spent 11 days there recovering. In a recent interview, he indicated that he was again having trouble with his intestines.
The pope has also been suffering from severe knee problems for more than a year, which often require him to use a wheelchair.
Francis has so far declined to undergo surgery on his knee – reportedly in part because he did not react well to anaesthesia during the previous operation.