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Vatican: Pope to be hospitalised for days for lung infection

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2023 | 2:41 PM
Pope Francis talks with Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis was hospitalised with a lung infection Wednesday after experiencing difficulty breathing in recent days and will remain in the hospital for several days of treatment, the Vatican said.

The 86-year-old pope doesn't have COVID-19, spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement late Wednesday.

The hospitalisation was the first since Francis spent 10 days at the Gemelli in July 2021 to have 33 centimetres (13 inches) of his colon removed.

It immediately raised questions about Francis' overall health, and his ability to celebrate the busy Holy Week events that are due to begin this weekend with Palm Sunday.

Bruni said Francis had been suffering breathing troubles in recent days and went to the Gemelli hospital for tests.

“The tests showed a respiratory infection (COVID-19 infection excluded) that will require some days of medical therapy,” Bruni's statement said.

Francis appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience earlier Wednesday, though he grimaced strongly while getting in and out of the “popemobile.”

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. But he got through the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic without at least any public word of ever testing positive.

Francis had been 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 cancelled all audiences through Friday, but it wasn't clear whether he could keep the Holy Week plans.

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