Pope Francis hospitalized in Rome following chest pains, infection, will remain ‘several days’

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Pope Francis, the 86-year-old spiritual leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, was rushed to a hospital in Rome by ambulance Wednesday, and a spokesman said he will spend “several days” there being treated for a pulmonary infection.

Both Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily newspaper, and America magazine, a Jesuit publication, reported the pontiff had suffered “chest pains” Wednesday. America magazine said its sources reported that Francis was first taken to the hospital’s coronary care unit for examination.

The publications each reported that Massimiliano Strappetti, Francis’ personal healthcare assistant, made the decision to summon an ambulance. He was transported to Gemelli University Hospital from the Vatican following a general audience Wednesday morning, including a motorized procession through St. Peter’s Square where he kissed and blessed several children.

Francis reportedly had breathing difficulties “recently,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told the Associated Press. 

Mr. Bruni said the pontiff tested negative for COVID-19, but will require “therapy” for his breathing issues.

His audiences have been canceled through Friday.

The hospitalization comes as the Vatican’s Holy Week is due to begin with Palm Sunday on April 2, followed by other observances marking the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus that culminate with Good Friday on April 7 and Easter Sunday two days later.

The pope’s health has been a subject of continuing concern both before and after his 2021 surgery that removed about 13 inches of his colon to treat diverticulitis. A bout with pneumonia in 1957 caused the then-Jorge Mario Bergoglio to lose the upper lobe of his right lung, but he was reported to be in good health when elevated to the papacy in 2013.

He suffers from recurring sciatica and has had a knee problem which placed him in a wheelchair for many public situations.

In an early March interview with Swiss television, the Corriere newspaper reported, the pope conceded he had physical challenges.

“I am old. I have less physical endurance, that of the knee was a physical humiliation, although now it is healing well,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Other media reports have had Francis dismissing the notion of retiring, as his late predecessor Benedict XVI did, although the pope has admitted a signed resignation letter exists to be used if he is incapacitated.

— This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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