Pope Francis to spend 'several days' in hospital with pulmonary infection

Pope Francis will spend a number of days in hospital due to a pulmonary infection, the Vatican has said.

It had previously been announced that the pontiff, 86, was undergoing scheduled tests at Gemelli hospital in Rome this afternoon.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis had been having difficulty breathing in recent days, but clarified he did not have Covid.

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

Pictures taken at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square today appear to show Francis in some discomfort as he was transferred from his wheelchair to the popemobile.

He lost part of one of his lungs to disease when he was young, and has been known to speak in a whisper at times.

Among his well-wishers was US President Joe Biden, who said he was concerned for his dear ‘friend’ at the start of an Oval Office meeting with President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina.

Francis is due to mark Palm Sunday this weekend, which begins Holy Week: Holy Thursday; Good Friday; the Easter Vigil; and, finally, Easter Sunday on April 9.

The week is the most important in the Catholic calendar, and usually includes high-profile appearances and addresses from the pontiff.

Francis previously visited Gemelli, the largest hospital in the Italian capital, in 2021 for major surgery on his intestine.

It was the first time he had been admitted to hospital since becoming pope in 2013, but a day after the three-hour operation he was said to be ‘in good condition, alert and breathing on his own’.

Pope Francis has used a wheelchair, walker and cane as mobility aids for over a year, due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture.

He marked his 10th anniversary in the role last month.

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