ROME (RNS) — Pope Francis has been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital due to a respiratory infection, the Vatican said, clarifying that it was not COVID-19 but it would “require several days of appropriate medical treatment at the hospital.”
In a statement released Wednesday evening (March 29), Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that for several days, the pope has “complained of respiratory difficulties” and was admitted Wednesday afternoon to the hospital for a scheduled medical checkup, which revealed the infection.
Pope Francis, Bruni added, “is touched by the many messages he’s received and expresses his gratitude for the support and prayers.”
Francis, who as a young man had part of a lung removed due to a respiratory infection, seemed in good spirits Wednesday morning as he began the day with his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. However, after several news outlets reported the pope being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, Bruni released a statement saying the “Holy Father went to Gemelli for some previously scheduled check-ups.”
The skepticism was swift, with several local news outlets noting Francis had abruptly canceled his appointments for the next few days, including a meeting with Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, and an interview with the Italian religious program, “A Sua Immagine” (“In His Image”).
Prior to Bruni’s second update on the pope’s condition, Argentine journalist Elisabetta Pique, who is close to the pontiff, collaborated an earlier report by Italian news agency ANSA that claimed Francis was admitted to the hospital after suffering “cardiac discomfort.”
Citing confirmations by “high-ranking Vatican officials,” Pique, who writes for the Argentine newspaper La Nación, said Francis complained of chest pains after returning from the general audience to his residence.
The pope’s personal health assistant, Massimiliano Strappetti, subsequently advised Francis to go immediately to the hospital, she reported.
Francis’ health has steadily declined since 2021, when he underwent surgery to remove part of his colon at Gemelli hospital. At the end of 2021, he chose to skip celebrating Mass on New Year’s Eve due to painful sciatica and has since relied on a wheelchair and cane due to persistent knee problems.