Pope Francis has been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital to receive treatment for a respiratory infection.
Initially, a spokesman stated that the 86-year-old was admitted for previously scheduled tests, but a later statement revealed that the pontiff had been experiencing breathing difficulties in the days prior.
The Vatican has confirmed that the respiratory infection is not related to COVID-19, and the pope is expected to receive a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment.
As a result, the pope’s appointments for Thursday morning were cancelled.
The pope’s hospitalisation comes just ahead of Holy Week and Easter, Christianity’s most important holiday, and a few weeks after marking a decade as head of the Catholic Church.
Over the past year, Francis has been suffering from chronic knee pain, which has led him to use a wheelchair.
He also postponed a scheduled trip to Africa last year and various events at home, leading to intense speculation about his health.
In July 2021, Francis was admitted to the same Rome hospital for ten days for an operation on his colon after suffering from a type of diverticulitis.
In January, he revealed that the diverticulitis had returned. Despite being seen in good spirits during his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday morning, where he appeared smiling as he greeted the faithful from his pope mobile, he was seen visibly grimacing as he was helped getting into the vehicle.
Francis has repeatedly said that he would consider stepping down if his health required it, following the example of his predecessor Benedict XVI, but he has also cautioned that papal resignations should not be the norm.
In the past decade, Francis has sought to forge an image of a more open and compassionate Church, although he has faced internal opposition, particularly from conservatives.
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