International News

Facing Respiratory Infection, Pope is Hospitalized for a ‘Few Days’

Pope Francis greets hospital workers at Gemelli hospital in this file photo taken in Rome July 11, 2021, when the pope had been in the hospital for 10 days to recover from a scheduled colon surgery. (Photo: Catholic News Service)

ROME (Crux)— After announcing that Pope Francis had gone to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for what were originally described as “previously planned tests,” the Vatican late Wednesday, March 29, said that the pontiff will be hospitalized for “a few days” to treat a respiratory infection.

“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some respiratory difficulties and this afternoon he went to the Gemelli Hospital to undergo some medical tests,” the statement read.

“The results of those tests have revealed a respiratory infection — though a COVID-19 infection is excluded — that will require a few days of appropriate hospital therapy. Pope Francis is touched by the many messages he’s received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” it said.

Bishop of Brooklyn, Robert Brennan, issued a statement saying, “I, along with so many of the Catholic Faithful, pray for the Holy Father. In fact we will pray in a special way during the previously scheduled Lenten Pilgrimage at Corpus Christi where I will lead the Rosary at 7:30 this evening.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese said on social media Wednesday, “I’ve been following the updates on the Holy Father through the media. Please join me in keeping him in prayer for a speedy return to health!” 

Even before the statement, the Vatican had canceled the pope’s appointments for Thursday and Friday of this week, after he unexpectedly pulled out of a planned interview with the national Italian television network Wednesday afternoon.

After arriving at the Gemelli, where a room is permanently set aside for the pope’s use, Pope Francis underwent a thoracic CT scan to rule out bronchial complications, the results of which reportedly were negative.

It’s not yet clear whether the pope will be able to preside over Holy Week celebrations, which begin over the weekend with the Palm Sunday liturgy. The last time the pope was hospitalized at the Gemelli, in July 2021 for colon surgery, he spent 11 days before returning to the Vatican.

In addition to the operation on his colon, as a young man Pope Francis had part of one lung removed after a severe bout of pneumonia. More recently, in 2019 he underwent ocular surgery at Rome’s Clinic of Pius XI to treat a cataract, and he’s also struggled with sciatica pain which has constrained him to use of a wheelchair and cane.

None of those problems, however, are considered life-threatening. Pope Francis is currently planning to preside over a Synod of Bishops in October, with a follow-up scheduled for October 2024, and also has his eye on a Jubilee Year in 2025.