ROSARIO, Argentina — Two top Vatican cardinals, one of whom was seen talking with Pope Francis on Friday, have tested positive for COVID-19. One of them is in the hospital, fighting off pneumonia.
Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 57, the pope’s point man for charity in the city of Rome, went to the Vatican’s health center with symptoms of pneumonia on Monday. He was then transferred to the Gemelli hospital in Rome.
Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, 78, president of the governorate of Vatican City, also tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Italian news reports.
The Vatican announced that everyone who’s been in contact with Krajewski in the past few days is being tested, but hasn’t clarified if this includes Pope Francis. The two spoke with one another during the final Advent meditation, on Dec. 18. During the weekend, in the name of Rome’s homeless, the Polish cardinal sent the pope sunflowers for his birthday.
The same day, he distributed face masks and basic medical supplies to the city’s poorest on behalf of the pope.
Krajewski – known in the Vatican as “Don Corrado” – is the papal almoner, an institution dating back at least 800 years that is in charge of charitable actions in the city of Rome on behalf of the pontiff.
The position has been given a new prominence under Francis, and Krajewski is widely seen as one of the pontiff’s closest collaborators.
This has been especially true during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Italy hard: Almost 70,000 people have died during the crisis, and the infection curve is again growing, with the government mandating a curfew for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Since the crisis began, the cardinal has been tasked not only with helping the homeless and poor in Italy, but also throughout the world, delivering respirators in the pope’s names where they were most needed, including Syria, Brazil and Venezuela.
In March, when he was driving hundreds of miles a day to deliver food donated by companies and factories to Rome’s poor, he told Crux that he’d been tested for COVID-19 and the result had been negative.
“I did it for the sake of the poor and people who work with me – they need to be safe,” he explained.
Dr. Andrea Arcangeli, the head of the Vatican office for Hygiene and Health, announced last week that the Vatican plans to vaccinate its employees and the citizens of the city-state, as well as the families of lay employees. Though the Vatican has yet to confirm if the pope will get the vaccine, it’s widely understood that he’ll need to be vaccinated before his planned March 5-8 trip to Iraq.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma