Pope is 'quiet but alert' amid treatment for pneumonia, medics reveal

Pope Francis is ‘quiet but alert’ as he undergoes treatment for pneumonia in hospital, medics reveal

  • Pope Francis was taken to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome yesterday afternoon
  • Doctors told Italian media the pontiff had contracted pneumonia but was ‘alert’
  • Concerns for Pope’s health come amid busy period with Easter services planned 

Pope Francis spent a peaceful night in hospital, a Vatican source said on Thursday, a day after the 86-year-old pontiff was hospitalised with a respiratory infection.

Doctors said the pope had contracted pneumonia, according to Italian outlet Corriere Della Sera, and added the pontiff was quiet, but alert and calm. 

On Wednesday, the Vatican had said that Francis would have to stay for ‘a few days’ at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for ‘appropriate’ medical treatment.

But nursing staff ‘are very optimistic’ that, barring surprises, the pope could be discharged in time for Palm Sunday celebrations on April 2, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Palm Sunday marks the start of a hectic week of ceremonies leading to Easter Sunday on April 9, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Francis was seen grimacing as he was helped getting into a vehicle following his weekly general audience yesterday, and Italian media reported he was taken to hospital by ambulance

Pope Francis sits in a wheelchair at the end of his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, 29 March 2023

Pope Francis meets children at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Pope’s spokesman Matteo Bruni yesterday confirmed that the 86-year-old does not have Covid-19 but requires several days of therapy after experiencing breathing problems ‘in recent days’.  

‘The tests showed a respiratory infection (Covid-19 infection excluded) that will require some days of medical therapy,’ Mr Bruni said.

‘Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.’

Francis was seen grimacing as he was helped getting into a vehicle following his weekly general audience yesterday, and Italian media reported he was taken to hospital by ambulance. 

Francis’ health has attracted increased scrutiny in the last two years, during which time he has undergone colon surgery and begun using a wheelchair or a walking stick due to chronic knee pain.

His latest hospitalisation has revived speculation over a possible resignation on health grounds, following the historic precedent of his late predecessor Benedict XVI.

Asked by Italian Swiss television RSI in an interview broadcast on March 12 what condition would lead him to quit, Francis said: ‘A tiredness that doesn’t let you see things clearly. 

‘A lack of clarity, of knowing how to evaluate situations’.

Policemen stand in front of the Agostino Gemelli hospital in Rome, where pope Francis is undergoing treatment, Italy, 29 March 2023

A view shows the main entrance of the Gemelli hospital on March 30, 2023 in Rome, where Pope Francis was admitted on March 29

President Joe Biden, at the start of an Oval Office meeting with President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina, told reporters yesterday he had just learned of Francis’s health problems and said he was concerned about his dear ‘friend’.  

‘The Pope is ill now so say an extra prayer for him,’ he said at the White House.

Francis had part of one lung removed when he was a young man due to a respiratory infection, and he often speaks in a whisper. 

He also suffers from diverticulitis, a condition that can infect or inflame the colon, and he had an operation in 2021 to remove part of his colon. 

Earlier this year, Pope Francis said the condition had returned and that it was causing him to put on weight, but that he was not overly concerned. He did not elaborate.

He also has a problem with his knee and alternates between using a cane and a wheelchair in his public appearances.

Francis told Reuters in an interview last year that he preferred not to have surgery on his knee because he did not want a repeat of long-term negative side effects from anaesthesia that he suffered after the 2021 operation.

He said that he was ‘a bit ashamed’ to use a wheelchair due to a knee injury.

‘I am old,’ he told RSI. ‘I have less physical resistance, the knee [problem] was a physical humiliation, even if the recovery is going well now.’

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