Pope Francis is ‘quiet but alert,’ a Vatican source said on Thursday March 30, a day after the 86-year-old pontiff was hospitalised with a respiratory infection.
Doctors said the pope had contracted pneumonia, according to Italian outlet Corriere Della Sera, and added the pontiff was quiet, but alert and calm.
On Wednesday, the Vatican had said that Francis would have to stay for ‘a few days’ at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for ‘appropriate’ medical treatment.
But nursing staff ‘are very optimistic’ that, barring surprises, the pope could be discharged in time for Palm Sunday celebrations on April 2, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
Palm Sunday marks the start of a hectic week of ceremonies leading to Easter Sunday on April 9, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Pope’s spokesman Matteo Bruni yesterday confirmed that the 86-year-old does not have Covid-19 but requires several days of therapy after experiencing breathing problems ‘in recent days’.
‘The tests showed a respiratory infection (Covid-19 infection excluded) that will require some days of medical therapy,’ Mr Bruni said.
‘Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer.’
Francis was seen grimacing as he was helped getting into a vehicle following his weekly general audience yesterday, and Italian media reported he was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Francis’ health has attracted increased scrutiny in the last two years, during which time he has undergone colon surgery and begun using a wheelchair or a walking stick due to chronic knee pain.
His latest hospitalisation has revived speculation over a possible resignation on health grounds, following the historic precedent of his late predecessor Benedict XVI.
Asked by Italian Swiss television RSI in an interview broadcast on March 12 what condition would lead him to quit, Francis said: ‘A tiredness that doesn’t let you see things clearly.
‘A lack of clarity, of knowing how to evaluate situations’.