Vatican: Pope improving since hospitalization with infection

The 86-year-old pontiff, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, ate breakfast, read the newspapers and was working from his hospital room at Rome’s Gemelli hospital

A statue of late Pope St. John Paul II in front of the Agostino Gemelli hospital in Rome, Italy, 29 March 2023.
A statue of late Pope St. John Paul II in front of the Agostino Gemelli hospital in Rome, Italy, 29 March 2023.CLAUDIO PERI (EFE)

Pope Francis rested well overnight and was “progressively improving” Thursday after being hospitalized with a respiratory infection, the Vatican said.

The 86-year-old pontiff, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, ate breakfast, read the newspapers and was working from his hospital room at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, according to a statement from Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

“Before lunch he went to the little chapel in the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer and received the Eucharist,” the statement said.

Francis was hospitalized Wednesday after having suffered breathing problems in recent days and was diagnosed with a respiratory infection, though not COVID-19. The Vatican said he would remain for a few days of treatment. His audiences were canceled through Friday.

Francis is scheduled to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, and it wasn’t clear how his medical condition would affect the Vatican’s Holy Week observances, which include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9.

His hospitalization was the first since Francis had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed and spent 10 days at the Gemelli hospital in July 2021.

He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a Jan. 24 interview with The Associated Press, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned.”

Before he was admitted to the hospital Wednesday, the pope had appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience, though he grimaced strongly while getting in and out of the “popemobile.”

Francis has used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture, though he had been walking more with a cane of late.

Francis has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn’t respond well to general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

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