Pope Francis, 86, was admitted to a Rome hospital on Wednesday with a respiratory infection that will require a stay of a few days, the Vatican said.
“In recent days, Pope Francis has complained of some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
The pontiff was admitted to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for medical checks, which revealed “a respiratory infection…which will require a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment,” Bruni said, adding that a Covid-19 infection 19 had been excluded.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Vatican said Francis had been admitted “for certain previously scheduled checks.”
The pope, who this month celebrated 10 years as head of the Catholic Church, had earlier appeared in good spirits during his weekly audience at the Vatican, smiling as he greeted worshipers from his “popemobile”.
However, he was seen grimacing as he was helped into the vehicle and Italian media reported that he was taken to hospital by ambulance.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” Bruni’s statement said.
A Vatican source told AFP that the pope’s meetings for Thursday morning had been cancelled.
The Argentine pontiff suffers from chronic knee pain which has forced him to use a wheelchair in recent months.
The Gemelli was the same hospital where he underwent colon surgery in July 2021 after suffering from a type of diverticulitis, inflammation of the pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine.
He stayed in the hospital for 10 days. A year later, he admitted he was still feeling the effects of six hours spent under anesthesia during the operation.
In a January interview, Francis said the diverticulitis had returned.
– Speculation –
Pope Francis has had to cancel or scale back several times over the past year due to knee pain, and in a July 2022 interview he acknowledged he needed to slow down.
His health has been the subject of much speculation, including whether he will follow his predecessor’s example and retire if he cannot continue.
Benedict XVI, a prominent German theologian, shocked the world in 2013 by becoming the first pope since the Middle Ages to step down.
The two “men in white” coexisted within the walls of the tiny Vatican state for nearly a decade, before Benedict XVI died on December 31.
François said he would follow Benedict in resigning if his health rendered him unable to do his job.
However, he told an interviewer in February that papal resignations should not become “a normal thing”, adding that at the moment it was not on his agenda.
– Still active –
Despite his advanced age and his health problems, Francis continues to travel a lot.
Huge crowds greeted him during a visit earlier this year to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a testament to his continued popularity.
Next month, Pope Francis is due to visit Hungary and meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Over the past decade it has sought to build an image of a more open and compassionate church, although it has faced internal opposition, particularly from conservatives.
Francis nearly died aged 21 after developing pleurisy – an inflammation of the tissues that surround the lungs – according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.
He had part of one of his lungs removed in October 1957.
He also talked about the surgical removal of cysts from the upper lobe of his right lung.
He insisted he had made “a full recovery … and has never felt any limitation since then”.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)