Pope Francis admitted to hospital with lung infection

Pontiff, 86, has experienced breathing difficulties in recent days and will now spend several days in hospital

Pope Francis arrives for the weekly general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 29. Reuters
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Pope Francis is being held in hospital for several days with a lung infection, the Vatican said.

The pontiff, 86, experienced breathing difficulties in recent days, a statement released on Wednesday evening said.

"Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer," the Vatican said.

Hours earlier, it said the Pope had gone to Rome's Gemelli Hospital for a "scheduled check-up".

Earlier in the day he took part in the weekly general audience and appeared to be in good health.

Pope Francis suffers from diverticulitis, a condition that can infect or inflame the colon, and had an operation in 2021 to remove part of the organ.

This year, he said the condition had returned and that it was causing him to put on weight, but that he was not overly concerned. He did not elaborate.

He also has a problem with his knee and alternates between using a cane and a wheelchair in his public appearances.

Pope Francis said last year that he preferred not to have surgery on his knee because he did not want a repeat of long-term side-effects from anaesthesia he suffered after the 2021 operation.

Last July, returning from a trip to Canada, the Pope acknowledged that his advancing age and his difficulty walking might have ushered in a new, slower phase of his papacy.

But since then, he has visited Kazakhstan and Bahrain, and made a gruelling trip last month to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

Pope Francis also said this year that he has no plans to resign any time soon and that if he eventually did it would be for serious heath reasons, such as if he were incapacitated.

Asked by Italian-Swiss television channel RSI in an interview broadcast on March 12 what condition would lead him to quit, he said: “A tiredness that doesn't let you see things clearly. A lack of clarity, of knowing how to evaluate situations.”

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Updated: March 29, 2023, 8:53 PM