Pope “gradually improving” from chest infection in Rome hospital

Pope Francis hospitalized with infection

Rome — The Vatican said Thursday that Pope Francis had “rested well” overnight after being hospitalized with a respiratory infection, and that “his clinical picture is gradually improving and he is continuing his planned treatment.”

“This morning after breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed work. Before lunch, he went to the little chapel of the private [hospital] apartment where he prayed and he received the Eucharist,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

The Vatican said late Wednesday that the pope had checked into Rome’s Gemelli hospital complaining of difficulty breathing, and that the 86-year-old pontiff would need a few days of treatment at the facility. He does not have COVID-19, according to the Vatican.

Pope Francis meets children at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, March 29, 2023.
Alessandra Tarantino/AP

As CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reported, Francis’ hospitalization brought a wave of sympathy from around the world, including from President Biden, who urged people to “say an extra prayer for him.”

Just hours before he was admitted for treatment, the pope appeared to be in good health at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square as he greeted the faithful, but afterward he was seen wincing in pain as he climbed back into the “Popemobile.”

Pope Francis is helped to get back into his vehicle at the end of weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, March 29, 2023.
Alessandra Tarantino/AP

In a tweet on his official “Pontifex” account, Francis said he was “touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer.”

Francis has often relied on a wheelchair to get around since he tore a knee ligament last year. When he does walk, he has a pronounced limp. The mobility issues have forced him to cancel both Vatican celebrations and overseas trips.

Outside the Gemelli hospital, the faithful have kept vigil since Francis was admitted, much as they did in 2021, when he was hospitalized for 10 days for colon surgery. He was treated for diverticulitis, a painful condition that, Francis revealed in January, had returned.

The health problems have fueled persistent rumors that Francis, now a decade into his papacy, could decide to resign, as did his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict.

CBS News Vatican consultant Father Anthony Figuereido told us recently, however, that Francis had “certainly made it clear – unless he’s impeded from being a pope, maybe through some minor difficulty, some illness of the mind, he will continue to be that pope.”

Earlier this year, Francis became the first pontiff in modern history to preside over the funeral of his predecessor.

Francis championed Benedict’s “brave” decision to retire at the age of 85, a year younger than the current head of the Catholic Church is now.

Chris Livesay

Chris Livesay is a CBS News foreign correspondent based in Rome.

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