Pope Francis was admitted to Gemelli Hospital in Rome this afternoon after experiencing respiratory difficulties for several days, reported Vatican News.
Earlier this morning, Pope Francis held the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he spoke about St. Paul’s witness of apostolic zeal for the Gospel. Italian media reported that he was transported to the hospital due to heart problems and breathing difficulties following the general audience.
According to the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Pope Francis’s personal nurse advised him to visit the hospital for a checkup on his heart and lungs.
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, initially said, “This afternoon, the Holy Father went to Gemelli for some previously scheduled check-ups.” Following reports that the pope had been sent to the hospital in an ambulance, the Vatican later said, “In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some respiratory difficulties and in the afternoon went to the Policlinico A. Gemelli in Rome to undergo some medical check-ups.”
The Vatican said that Pope Francis has been diagnosed with a non-COVID respiratory infection and will receive several days of medical treatment at the hospital. In 1957, the pope had part of one lung removed due to a respiratory infection. He underwent an MRI today to assess the health of his lungs.
At 86 years old, Pope Francis is one of the oldest popes in the Catholic Church’s history. Only 11 or 12 of the 266 popes have reached the age of 85, at which age Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy. In December 2022, Pope Francis revealed that he has written a resignation letter in case serious health problems make it impossible for him to carry out his duties. Though the pope only recently spoke about the existence of the resignation letter, he said that he handed the letter over to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then-secretary of state, at the beginning of his pontificate in 2013. Pope Paul VI wrote a similar letter during his papacy, as did Pope Pius XII. (RELATED: Dialogues of the Carmelites: French Revolution Tragedy Turned Operatic)
The pope’s last visit to the hospital was in 2021, when he was admitted for 10 days for the removal of part of his colon. He has used a wheelchair over the past year as a result of knee pain, but the pontiff has remained active, traveling to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months.
The pope’s hospitalization falls on the eve of Holy Week, but there has been no official announcement about whether or not he will celebrate Mass on Palm Sunday as planned. His schedules for Thursday and Friday have been cleared.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” reported Vatican News.
Mary Frances Myler is a postgraduate fellow at the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government.
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