Pope Francis was hospitalised with a lung infection on March 29 after experiencing difficulty breathing in recent days and will remain in the hospital for several days of treatment, the Vatican said.
The 86-year-old Pope doesn’t have COVID-19, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement late on Wednesday.
The hospitalisation was the first since Pope Francis spent 10 days at the Gemelli in July 2021 to have 33 centimetres (13 inches) of his colon removed.
It immediately raised questions about Pope Francis’ overall health, and his ability to celebrate the busy Holy Week events that are due to begin this weekend with Palm Sunday.
Mr. Bruni said Pope Francis had been suffering breathing troubles in recent days and went to the Gemelli hospital for tests.
“The tests showed a respiratory infection [COVID-19 infection excluded] that will require some days of medical therapy,” Mr. Bruni’s statement said.
Pope Francis appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience earlier on Wednesday, though he grimaced strongly while getting in and out of the “popemobile”. Pope Francis had part of one lung removed when he was a young man due to a respiratory infection, and he often speaks in a whisper. But he got through the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic without at least any public word of ever testing positive.
Pope Francis had been due to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, kicking off the Vatican’s Holy Week observances: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9. He has cancelled all audiences through Friday, but it wasn’t clear whether he could keep the Holy Week plans.
Pope Francis has used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture. He has said the injury was healing and been walking more with a cane of late.
Pope Francis also has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn’t respond well to general anaesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.
He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a Jan. 24 interview with The Associated Press, Pope Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned”.