Pope Francis ‘gradually improving’ after hospitalisation with infection

Pontiff was taken to hospital in Rome on Wednesday after complaining of breathing difficulties

Pope Francis’s health is “gradually improving” after he was taken to hospital with a respiratory infection, his spokesperson, Matteo Bruni, has said.

The pontiff (86), was taken to Gemelli hospital in Rome on Wednesday afternoon after complaining of breathing difficulties and chest pain in recent days.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis was pictured grimacing as he was helped into the pope mobile at the end of his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

After spending a restful night in hospital, “his clinical picture is gradually improving and is continuing his planned treatment,” Mr Bruni said in a statement on Thursday.


“This morning after breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed work. Before lunch he went to the small chapel of his private room where he prayed and received the Eucharist.”

Tests have ruled out Covid-19, heart problems and pneumonia but it is unclear when the pope, who has been suffering from a knee ailment since last year, will be discharged from hospital and whether he will be able to fulfil duties during Holy Week.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, vice dean of the college of cardinals, confirmed to Ansa news agency on Thursday that he would celebrate Palm Sunday mass.

The Vatican originally said that the pope had been admitted to hospital for a check-up that was already on his schedule but speculation built after planned events were cancelled at the last minute.

“They fumbled it again [with the communication],” said Robert Mickens, the Rome-based editor of the English-language edition of Catholic daily newspaper La Croix. “We’ll have to wait and see what exactly this is. He’s 86, he’s overweight and he has not slowed down ... he was in Africa last month and he has a full schedule of activity every single day. It’s crazy but he’s able to do it.”

In a video message recorded before he was taken into hospital, he evoked the conflict in Ukraine as he called war “madness” and argued that “even in cases of self-defence, peace is the ultimate goal”. He has pleaded for peace practically on a weekly basis and repeatedly expressed a wish to act as a peace broker.

Pope Francis, who marked the 10-year anniversary of his papacy earlier this month, had part of one lung removed in his early 20s while training to be a priest in his native Argentina.

In June 2021 he underwent a colon operation and since May last year he has frequently been seen in a wheelchair or using a walking stick because of his knee ailment. The Vatican has not revealed exactly what the problem is, but José María Villalón, the chief doctor at the Spanish football club Atlético de Madrid, was called upon to treat the issue. Villalón, a distinguished doctor in the field of sport traumatology, said in November that Francis, whom he described as “a very charming and very stubborn patient”, had made it clear that the pontiff did not want surgery on his knee.

Francis has often alluded to resigning if bad health prevented him from doing his job. His late predecessor, Benedict XVI, opened up the door to papal resignations and Francis has said that they should become the norm. In an interview with Swiss Radio in early March, he said: “I could quit if I wasn’t lucid.” – Guardian