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Faith Nyasuguta

Pope Francis, 86, spent Wednesday night in hospital in Rome, where he will continue receiving treatment on Thursday for what the Vatican said is a respiratory infection.

A spokesman mentioned that the pontiff had been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital on Wednesday for previously scheduled tests — but in a later statement disclosed that Francis had complained in previous days of “breathing difficulties.”

According to tests, the respiratory infection was not Covid-19, but it required “a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment“, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

A Vatican source said that the pope’s appointments for Thursday morning had been cancelled.

Francis’ admission, which sparked scores of journalists to camp outside the hospital Wednesday night, came a few weeks after marking a decade as head of the Catholic Church.

It also comes just ahead of Holy Week and Easter, a period dubbed as Christianity’s most important holiday.

/News International/

In the past year, Francis has suffered from chronic knee pain that has required him to use a wheelchair.

The postponement of his scheduled trip to Africa and various events at home in 2022 fueled intense speculation about his health, and in a July 2022 interview he acknowledged that he needed to slow down.

At his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday morning, the pope appeared in good spirits, smiling as he greeted the faithful from his “popemobile”.

But he was seen visibly grimacing as he required help boarding his vehicle.

In July 2021, Francis was admitted in the same Rome hospital for 10 days for an operation on his colon after suffering from a type of diverticulitis, an inflammation of pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine.

In a January interview, Francis said the diverticulitis had recurred.

Francis has repeatedly said, most recently in February, that he would consider resigning if his health required it, following the example of his predecessor Benedict XVI.

Despite this, he has warned that papal resignations should not be the norm, and said in an interview last month that the idea was currently not “on my agenda”.

Pope Francis on Wednesday needed help getting into his vehicle/BBC/

Benedict, who died on December 31, shocked the world in 2013 by becoming the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign.

In at age 21 in 1957, Francis had part of one of his lungs removed, but he has said he made a full recovery.

At age 86, Francis keeps a busy schedule at home and continues to travel internationally.

Earlier this year, he visited South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, drawing huge crowds.

Next month, he is due to visit Hungary and meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In the last 10 years, Francis has sought to forge an image of a more open, compassionate Church, although has faced internal opposition, particularly from conservatives.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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