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Pope Francis taken to hospital with difficulty breathing

By Sarah May on
 March 30, 2023

Catholic faithful all over the world were shocked to learn earlier this week that Pope Francis, 86, was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Rome on Wednesday after experiencing breathing difficulties, as Reuters reports.

Subsequent medical testing revealed that the pontiff was suffering from a non-COVID-19 respiratory infection and would need to remain hospitalized for “a few days.”

Pope Francis hospitalized

As Reuters noted, the Vatican initially indicated that the pope traveled to the hospital for a regularly scheduled health check-up, however Italian media outlets then reported that he had actually been taken to the facility via ambulance after having cancelled a planned television interview at the last minute.

The Ansa news agency in Italy noted that testing administered at the hospital was able to rule out pneumonia and cardiac concerns, though it was determined that the pope had contracted the aforementioned respiratory infection of undisclosed type, according to the BBC.

Nurses at the facility were reportedly optimistic that the hospital stay would be confined to just a few days and that the pontiff would be released in time for this weekend's Palm Sunday observances.

A statement from the Vatican confirmed that assessment and added, “Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”

Improvement noted

To the relief of millions around the globe, the Press Office of the Holy See released an update on the pope's condition on Thursday, striking a positive tone about the trajectory of his recovery process, as ABC News reports.

According to the statement, the pontiff rested comfortably overnight, and has been able to undertake some of his typical duties while in the hospital.

“The clinical picture is progressively improving, and the planned treatments continue. This morning after having breakfast, he read some newspapers and went back to work,” the release added.

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

Complicated health history

Pope Francis has been plagued by a number of health concerns over the course of his life, including some in recent years that have prompted him to float the possibility of stepping down from his duties if his condition should decline in an appreciable way, as the BBC noted.

The pontiff has frequently been seen using a wheelchair in recent appearances due to worsening mobility caused by knee problems for which he has opted not to have surgery because of prior negative side effects from anesthesia, according to Reuters.

After having undergone colon surgery to address an ongoing issue with diverticulitis in 2021, Pope Francis revealed earlier this year that the condition had unfortunately returned, but that there were no serious concerns arising from it at the time.

In addition to those afflictions, the pontiff is, according to Reuters, generally predisposed to developing respiratory concerns given that he had part of one lung removed during early adulthood while living in his native country of Argentina.

Well-wishes pour in

The hospitalization of Pope Francis spurred expressions of concern and wishes for a speedy recovery from admirers all over the world, with President Joe Biden taking a moment during an event celebrating Greek Independence Day to ask everyone to “say an extra prayer” for the pontiff, as ABC news noted.

Reuters added that believers living in Pope Francis' native land of Argentina offered their support and hope for improved health, with Marcela Mazzini, a professor at the seminary at which he formerly studied, saying, “If the pope could listen to us, I would tell him that we need him because the reform that he faced is not finished.”

Anibal Pizelle, one of the faithful who met the pope back when he served as bishop in Buenos Aires, conveyed her expectation of a full recovery, characterizing Francis as someone who is “physically and mentally strong” as well as a “person with enormous faith.”

With Holy Week fast approaching, the official schedule for Pope Francis for the coming days features numerous events including a Palm Sunday Papal Mass, Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, an Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday Mass, but whether his health will permit any significant degree of participation, only time will tell.