By: Kimberly Rodrigues
According to a statement from the Vatican on Wednesday (29), Pope Francis has contracted a respiratory infection, which requires hospitalisation for “a few days” for treatment.
There is concern for the 86-year-old’s condition, as he was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties over the past few days. However, tests confirmed that he did not have COVID-19 but only the infection.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the Vatican said.
Having marked his 10th anniversary as pope earlier this month, Francis is known to experience shortness of breath and is more susceptible to respiratory issues due to having had part of one lung removed during his early 20s while training to become a priest in Argentina.
The timing of his current hospitalisation raises concerns about his ability to lead the Palm Sunday service on April 2, which marks the start of a busy week of ceremonies leading up to Easter Sunday on April 9. It remains uncertain whether he will be able to conduct the services as customary.
Over the past two years, there has been a growing interest in Francis’ health, given that he underwent colon surgery and now uses a wheelchair or walking stick due to chronic knee pain.
Initially, the Vatican stated that the pope’s hospital visit on Wednesday was a routine check-up. However, Italian media outlets reported that he arrived in an ambulance after abruptly cancelling a scheduled television interview.
Earlier that day, Francis appeared to be in good health as he attended his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Although Francis has spoken highly of his predecessor Benedict XVI’s decision to resign due to health reasons in 2013, he has stated that he would only consider doing the same if he were seriously incapacitated.
(With inputs from Reuters)