Pope to be hospitalized for days after lung infection diagnosis — Vatican

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VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis was hospitalized with a lung infection Wednesday after experiencing breathing difficulties for the past few days and will remain hospitalized for several days for treatment, the Vatican said.

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

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

It immediately raised questions about Francis’ overall health, and his ability to celebrate the busy events of Holy Week which are set to begin this Palm Sunday weekend.

Bruni said Francis had been experiencing breathing problems for the past few days and went to Gemelli hospital for tests.

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

Francis appeared reasonably well during his regularly scheduled general audience earlier on Wednesday, although he grimaced heavily as he got in and out of the “popemobile”.

Pope Francis hugs a child at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, March 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Francis had part of one lung removed as a young man due to a respiratory infection, and often speaks in a whisper. But he got through the worst stages of the COVID-19 pandemic without even a single public word of ever testing positive.

Francis was due to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, beginning the Vatican’s Holy Week observations: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9. He canceled all audiences until Friday, but it wasn’t clear. could he keep the Holy Week plans.

Francis 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 has healed and has been walking more with a cane recently.

Francis has also said that he refused to have surgery for the knee problems because he did not respond well to general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

He said soon after the operation that he had fully recovered and could eat normally. But in an interview with the Associated Press on January 24, Francis said that his inclination, or bulges in the intestinal wall, were “back”.

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