ROME — Pope Francis was admitted to a Rome hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties in recent days, the Vatican said Wednesday after canceling his meetings for the next two days.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said medical checks had been carried out on the pontiff at the Gemelli hospital, where Francis underwent surgery in 2021.
“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some breathing difficulties,” Bruni said in a statement, adding that the tests had picked up a respiratory infection.
He said that Covid-19 had been ruled out by the tests but the pope would “require a few days of appropriate hospital medical therapy.”
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayers,” he added.
In an earlier statement Bruni said that Francis, 86, had gone to hospital for scheduled tests.
Francis’ audiences through Friday were canceled, raising questions about the pope’s participation in the Vatican’s Holy Week activities.
Though he grimaced visibly while getting into and out of the “popemobile,” he had appeared in relatively good form during his scheduled general audience Wednesday.
Francis had part of one lung removed when he was a young man due to a respiratory infection, and often speaks in a whisper.
He spent 10 days at the Gemelli hospital following the 2021 surgery for an intestinal narrowing, which included the removal of 13 inches of his colon.
Francis is 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 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 was healing and been walking more with a cane of late.
Francis also has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn’t respond well to the general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.
He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a January interview with The Associated Press, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned.”
Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome, and Henry Austin reported from London.