Pope Francis uses a wheelchair during Canada visit
On Wednesday, the Holy See announced the Argentinian pontiff had been hospitalised for a “scheduled examination”, but a Vatican spokesman said on Wednesday evening he was suffering from a “respiratory infection”.
Matteo Bruni added: “In recent days, Pope Francis has had difficulty breathing and this afternoon he was admitted to A. Gemelli polyclinic for medical checks.”
Following the infection, it is unclear whether Pope Francis will be able to preside over Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican or the celebrations planned for Holy Week and Easter.
In common with his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who died at the end of 2022, Pope Francis has suffered from health problems.
Since May 2022 Pope Francis has suffered from chronic knee pain and in 2021, he was hospitalised for 10 days to undergo an operation on his colon.
Jorge Bergoglio said the pontiff had experienced “after effects” from the anaesthesia used during the operation which forced the Holy Father to rule out the possibility of knee surgery.
Pope Francis’s health has also begun to impact his papal timetable.
The pontiff’s knee pain is so extensive that he has been in a wheelchair for nearly a year; the pain has also prompted him to cancel several appointments, including a trip to Africa.
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The pontiff’s continuing health problems add to the speculation that he could become the second pope in succession to resign after Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.
When Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, he cited a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his age, he became the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415 and the first to resign voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294.
Pope Francis has previously said he is leaving the door open to resigning. Last summer, the pontiff said he could no longer “travel” at the same pace he used to and mentioned the possibility of “putting himself aside”.
However, the pope has made it clear he does not want papal renunciation to “become a fashion” and that resigning was “not on his agenda for the moment”.
However, this has not stopped changes from being made. Pope Francis recently created a new official role in the Vatican for a “personal health assistant”.
The role is currently being filled by Vatican nurse Massimiliano Strappetti, a nurse Pope Francis credits with saving his life at Gemelli Hospital.
In this new role, Mr Strapetti works with Pope Francis’s personal physician, Dr Roberto Bernabei, in managing the pope’s health.
In a statement, Pope Francis said: “I think that at my age and with this limitation I have to cut back a little bit to serve the Church or on the contrary think about the possibility of stepping aside.”
If Pope Francis were to resign it would mark the second time in less than 10 years that there were two living popes.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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