Pope Francis improving with antibiotics for bronchitis

Vatican suggests pontiff might leave Rome's Agostino Gemelli Hospital 'in coming days'

Pope Francis waves to the faithful during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, the Vatican, on March 29. AP
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There has a marked improvement in Pope Francis's health after an infusion of antibiotics for an infectious bronchitis, the Vatican said on Thursday.

New concerns were raised over the health of the pontiff, 86, who is suffering from several ailments, when he was taken to hospital on Wednesday after complaining of breathing difficulties.

The Vatican quoted the pontiff's medical team as saying he had been diagnosed with an infectious bronchitis virus, a highly contagious respiratory disease, which required an intravenous infusion of antibiotics.

"(This) produced the expected effects with a marked improvement in his state of health," it said.

"Based on the expected progress, the Holy Father could be discharged in the coming days."

The Vatican said that the Pope had spent the afternoon "devoting himself to rest, prayer and some work."

"I am touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer," the Pope wrote on Twitter.

Mr Bruni has indicated the Pope was able to pray in the small chapel in his private hospital suite.

Pope Francis was taken to Gemelli with breathing difficulties, raising fresh concerns over his health.

Nursing staff were “very optimistic” that, barring surprises, the pope could be discharged in time for Palm Sunday celebrations on April 2 — the start of a hectic week of ceremonies leading to Easter Sunday on April 9, Italian news outlet Ansa reported.

Last year, the Pope attended but did not preside at some of the Easter services due to his knee pain. If the same happened again, a cardinal would be appointed to celebrate the services.

Pope Francis, who this month marked 10 years as pope, is sometimes short of breath and known to be exposed to respiratory problems.

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

The Vatican said the Pope was expected to spend a few days in the hospital. AP

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.

In his early 20s, the Pope had part of one lung removed when training to be a priest in his native Argentina.

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.

The Agostino Gemelli Hospital where Pope Francis is being treated for a respiratory infection. EPA

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 health reasons, such as if he were incapacitated.

Updated: March 30, 2023, 7:32 PM

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