VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2023 (REUTERS) – Pope Francis has a respiratory infection and will need to spend “a few days” in hospital for treatment, the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday, amid concern for the 86-year-old’s condition.
The 86-year-old pontiff was taken to Rome’s Gemelli hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties over the past few days, the statement said. Tests showed he had the infection but did not have COVID-19, it said.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the Vatican said.
Francis, who this month marked 10 years as pope, is sometimes short of breath and generally more exposed to respiratory problems. He had part of one lung removed in his early 20s when training to be a priest in his native Argentina.
His latest hospitalization comes ahead of a Palm Sunday service on April 2 that marks the start of a hectic week of ceremonies leading to Easter Sunday on April 9, throwing into doubt whether he would be able to lead them as customary.
Francis’ health has attracted increased scrutiny in the past two years, during which he has undergone colon surgery and began using a wheelchair or a walking stick due to chronic pain in one knee.
The Vatican had initially said the pope had gone to hospital on Wednesday for a scheduled check-up. But Italian media reported he arrived in an ambulance after cancelling a television interview at the last minute.
Francis had attended his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square in the morning, appearing in good health.
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