ROME – After announcing that Pope Francis had gone to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for what were originally described as “previously planned tests,” the Vatican late Wednesday said that the pontiff will be hospitalized for “a few days” to treat a respiratory infection.
“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some respiratory difficulties and this afternoon he went to the Gemelli Hospital to undergo some medical tests,” the statement read.
“The results of those tests have revealed a respiratory infection (though a Covid-19 infection is excluded) that will require a few days of appropriate hospital therapy. Pope Francis is touched by the many messages he’s received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” it said.
Even before the statement, the Vatican had cancelled the pope’s appointments for Thursday and Friday, after he unexpectedly pulled out of a planned interview with the national Italian television network Wednesday afternoon.
After arriving at the Gemelli, where a room is permanently set aside for the pope’s use, Francis underwent a thoracic CT scan to rule out bronchial complications, the results of which reportedly were negative.
It’s not yet clear whether the pope will be able to preside over Holy Week celebrations, which begin over the weekend with the Palm Sunday liturgy. The last time the pope was hospitalized at the Gemelli, in July 2021 for colon surgery, he spent eleven days before returning to the Vatican.
In addition to the operation on his colon, as a young man Pope Francis had part of one lung removed after a severe bout of pneumonia. More recently, in 2019 he underwent ocular surgery at Rome’s Clinic of Pius XI to treat a cataract, and he’s also struggled with sciatica pain which has constrained him to use of a wheelchair and cane.
None of those problems, however, are considered life-threatening. Aside from a trip already scheduled to Hungary at the end of April, Pope Francis is currently planning to preside over a Synod of Bishops in October, with a follow-up scheduled for October 2024, and also has his eye on a Jubilee Year in 2025.
In a statement Wednesday night, the Italian bishops’ conference assured the pope of the “choral prayer” of the entire Italian church for his health, and also expressed gratitude for “the doctors and health care workers taking care of him and all their patients.”