ROME — Pope Francis went to a Rome hospital on Wednesday and canceled his audiences for the next two days to undergo previously scheduled tests, the Vatican said.
The Vatican provided no details, including how long the 86-year-old pope would remain at Gemelli University Hospital, where he underwent surgery in 2021. But his audiences through Friday were canceled, raising questions about Francis’ participation during the Vatican’s Holy Week activities starting Sunday.
“The Holy Father has been at Gemelli since this afternoon for some previously scheduled checkups,” the Vatican said in a one-line statement from spokesman Matteo Bruni.
Francis appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience Wednesday, though he grimaced strongly while getting into and out of the “popemobile.”
The purpose of the medical tests wasn’t immediately clear. 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.
He spent 10 days at the Gemelli hospital following the 2021 surgery for an intestinal narrowing, which included the removal of 13 inches of his colon.
Francis is 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 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.
Francis also has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn’t respond well to the general anesthesia 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, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned.”