30 Mar 2023

Pope Francis in hospital with respiratory infection

11:35 am on 30 March 2023

By Davide Ghiglione & Alys Davies in Rome and London

Pope Francis arrives by popemobile for the holy mass at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, on February 5, 2023. - Pope Francis wraps up his pilgrimage to South Sudan with an open-air mass on February 5, 2023 after urging its leaders to focus on bringing peace to the fragile country torn apart by violence and poverty. The three-day trip is the first papal visit to the largely Christian country since it achieved independence from Sudan in 2011 and plunged into a civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people.

The 86-year-old Pope has had breathing difficulties in recent days. Photo: AFP

Pope Francis has a respiratory infection and will need to spend a few days in hospital in Rome, the Vatican says.

The 86-year-old has had breathing difficulties in recent days but does not have Covid-19, a statement said.

It said he would need "a few days of appropriate hospital medical therapy".

"Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer," the statement added.

His closest staff, including security, are expected to stay the night at the Gemelli Hospital, a person with direct knowledge told the BBC.

This is the busiest time of the year for Pope Francis, with many events and services scheduled ahead of Easter weekend.

A Palm Sunday Mass is scheduled this weekend, and Holy Week and Easter celebrations next week.

He is also scheduled to visit Hungary at the end of April.

On Wednesday morning (local time), he presided over his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square. He appeared in good spirits but was seen grimacing as he was helped into his vehicle.

The pontiff has used a wheelchair in recent months due to mobility problems related to his knee.

He also underwent surgery to treat a colon problem in 2021. In January, he said the condition had returned.

Despite his ailments, the Pope has remained active and has undertaken trips abroad. He visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in February.

In January, the Pope led the funeral of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI - who was the first pope to step down voluntarily for centuries. He said this was due to ill health.

Pope Francis has previously indicated that he may also wish to follow in Benedict's footsteps in the event that his health deteriorates.


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