Pope Francis will spend several days at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after tests found a respiratory infection, the Vatican said on Wednesday afternoon.
All of his events through Friday have been canceled, and it remains unclear whether the pontiff will be able to keep his Holy Week and Easter commitments as well.
“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
“The tests ruled out Covid-19 but found a “respiratory infection,” Bruni added, which will “require a few days of appropriate medical therapy.”
Earlier in the day, the 86-year-old pontiff rode around Saint Peter’s Square in the “popemobile” for a scheduled general audience with the Catholic faithful, hugging the believers and kissing babies.
Bruni’s first statement described the hospital visit as a previously scheduled check-up.
The Argentinian Jesuit had part of one lung removed in his youth, due to a respiratory infection. He has had other health problems in recent years. In 2021, he had a part of his colon removed at Gemelli.
He later used a wheelchair and a cane to walk after a knee injury, ruling out surgery because he had reacted poorly to the general anesthesia.
The pope’s hospital stay comes just ahead of the Catholic Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday celebrations this weekend and culminating with the Easter vigil and mass on April 9.
Francis became pope in 2013, when his predecessor Benedict XVI announced he was retiring – the first pontiff to do so since 1415 – due to advanced age.
He was 85 at the time, a year younger than Francis is now. Benedict spent the next decade as “pope emeritus” until his death at the end of December 2022.