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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pope Francis to stay in hospital with respiratory infection

Pope Francis is helped get up the popemobile car as he leaves on March 29, 2023, at the end of the weekly general audience at St. Peter's square in The Vatican. Pope Francis was taken to Gemelli Hospital in Rome on Wednesday for some previously scheduled tests, the Holy See press director said. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)  (Vincenzo Pinto/GETTY IMAGES EUROPE/TNS)
By Manuel Schwarz dpa

ROME — Pope Francis is suffering from a respiratory infection and will remain in the hospital for several days to receive treatment, a spokesman for the Vatican said on Wednesday evening.

The 86-year-old pontiff was taken to Rome’s Gemelli University Hospital on Wednesday afternoon, where tests revealed the finding, said the spokesman, Matteo Bruni. He added that the infection is not from the coronavirus.

Bruni said Francis had complained of breathing problems in recent days.

It remains unclear when Francis will return to the Vatican, where Palm Sunday and Holy Week celebrations leading up to Easter will be held next week.

Bruno initially said that Francis was taken to the hospital for “some tests which had been scheduled previously.”

Italian media, including daily newspapers Il Fatto Quotidiano and Corriere della Sera, reported that all of Francis’ appointments and audiences for this Thursday and Friday had been canceled.

The Holy Father was touched by the many messages he received and sends his thanks for prayers, the Vatican said in a statement.

The Argentine-born leader of the Roman Catholic Church held his weekly general audience on St. Peter’s Square in front of thousands of believers on Wednesday morning.

He was scheduled to give a television interview afterwards but had to cancel and was taken to the hospital by ambulance instead.

Television news crews, reporters and press photographers were posted outside the hospital on Wednesday evening, where they watched the room on the tenth floor where the pontiff is staying.

Doctors ordered tomography and blood oxygen tests out of concern over potential heart disease but there were no concerning findings, the ANSA and Adnkronos news agencies reported, citing informed sources in the health care system.

Caregivers and security guards were informed early in the afternoon that the pope would have to stay in the hospital for at least one night, media reported.

Those Italian press reports contradicted the Vatican spokesman’s initial information about the pope’s condition.

In July 2021, Francis had intestinal surgery at the same hospital and spent 11 days there recovering. In a recent interview, he indicated that he was again having trouble with his intestines.

The pope has also been suffering from severe knee problems for more than a year, which often require him to use a wheelchair.

Francis has so far declined to undergo surgery on his knee - reportedly in part because he did not react well to anaesthesia during the previous operation.