“In recent days, Pope Francis complained of some respiratory difficulties, and this afternoon he went to Policlinico A. Gemelli for some medical checks,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
“The outcome of these showed a respiratory infection that will require several days of appropriate hospital medical treatment,” Bruni added.
Easter week, which starts with Palm Sunday this weekend, is the holiest time in the Catholic calendar. It is not yet known if the 86-year-old Pope will preside over the busy week of services leading up to Easter Sunday, including Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.
After his morning audience Wednesday, the pontiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
The pope had a chest CT scan and other tests, after which his entourage expressed “relief” at the results, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Francis’ blood saturation levels were fine, and tests have ruled out any heart problems and pneumonia.
As a young man, the pope survived severe pneumonia and had part of a lung removed, the New York Times reported.
The Vatican initially said the hospital visit was planned, theTimes said.
“The Holy Father has since this afternoon been at the Gemelli for some previously planned tests,” Bruni said. He added, “Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”
Francis, who has been pope for 10 years, has had health challenges recently. He has commented at various times about how long he expected to serve.
When he began, he said he envisioned serving only a few years. At times, he has said he would resign if his health made it impossible to run the church, according to theTimes. He praised his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for having the courage to step down.
On a papal plane in 2014, he said, “I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.”
Then, in 2015, Francis said he saw himself serving another five years, theTimes reported.
In 2021, after major surgery, the pope told a Spanish-language radio station that he had never thought about quitting because of poor health. He also said recently that the pontificate is a lifelong mission.
“I believe that the pope’s ministry is ad vitam,” he told a group of Jesuits in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month, using the term “for life” in Latin. “I see no reason why it should not be so.”
About retirement, Francis said, “Think that the ministry of the great patriarchs is always for life! And the historical tradition is important.”
In recent years, the pontiff has suffered included knee problems and sciatica. In 2021, he had 13 inches of his large intestine removed because of inflammation that narrowed his colon.
These days he sometimes uses a cane or a wheelchair. He uses an elevator to board and get off airplanes while continuing to keep an ambitious travel schedule, according to the Times.
Francis takes this all in stride. “I’m in good health. For my age, I’m normal,” he told the Associated Press in January. “I might die tomorrow, but it’s under control. I’m in good health.”
The National Health System in the United Kingdom has more on respiratory infections.
SOURCE: Vatican, news release, March 29, 2023; New York Times, March 29, 2023
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