ROME (RNS) — Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital with a respiratory infection, the Vatican said, clarifying that it was not COVID-19 but would “require several days of appropriate medical treatment in hospital.”
In a statement issued Wednesday evening (March 29), Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that for several days, the pope has “complained of respiratory difficulties” and was admitted to hospital on Wednesday afternoon. for a scheduled medical check-up, which revealed the infection.
Pope Francis, Bruni added, “is moved by the many messages he has received and expresses his gratitude for the support and prayers.”
Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man due to a respiratory infection, seemed in good spirits Wednesday morning as he began the day with his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. However, after various media outlets reported that the Pope was taken to hospital in an ambulance, Bruni issued a statement saying that “the Holy Father went to Gemelli for some previously scheduled checkups.”
Skepticism was not long in coming, and several local media outlets pointed out that Francis had abruptly canceled his appointments for the next few days, including a meeting with Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, and an interview with the program Italian religious, “A Sua Immagine” (“In His Image”).
Ahead of Bruni’s second update on the pope’s condition, Argentine journalist Elisabetta Pique, who is close to the pontiff, collaborated with an earlier report by the Italian news agency ANSA that claimed Francis was admitted to hospital after suffering ” cardiac discomfort”.
Citing confirmations from “senior Vatican officials,” Piqué, writing for the Argentine newspaper La Nación, said Francis complained of chest pains after returning to his residence from the general audience.
The pope’s personal health assistant, Massimiliano Strappetti, later advised Francis to go immediately to the hospital, it reported.
Francis’ health has steadily declined since 2021, when he underwent surgery to remove part of his colon at Gemelli hospital. In late 2021, he decided to skip New Year’s Eve mass due to painful sciatica and has been dependent on a wheelchair and cane ever since due to persistent knee problems.