Pope Francis has been hospitalized for several days with respiratory problems, the Vatican said

Rome, Italy (CNN) Pope Francis The Vatican said Wednesday that he will be hospitalized for “a few days” for treatment of a respiratory infection, raising concerns about the 86-year-old pontiff’s health.

“Pope Francis complained of some respiratory problems in recent days and this afternoon he went to the Policlinico A. Gemelli for some medical tests,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement, referring to the Rome hospital where popes are usually treated. “The result showed a respiratory infection (other than a covid-19 infection) that would require a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment.”

“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayers,” Bruni added.

After his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis was taken to the hospital to undergo several tests. Earlier, the Vatican said the visit and trials were planned.

“The Holy Father is in Gemelli this afternoon for some pre-planned tests,” Bruni said.

Shortly after, he said, the pope’s schedule for Thursday was cleared “to make room, if necessary, to continue the tests.”

The Pope has recently had medical problems. He is often seen with a walking stick and sometimes uses a wheelchair due to pain in his right knee.

Last year, he canceled trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan after doctors told him he would miss a later trip to Canada unless he agreed to 20 more days of treatment and rest for his knee. He eventually went DRC And South Sudan In February.

In 2021, he underwent surgery to remove part of his colon due to a common persistent diverticulitis.

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Francis recently revealed that he has already signed Resignation letter He should be used in the event of a “defect”. In a December interview with Spanish news agency ABC, Francis made the comments when asked what would happen if a pope suddenly became unable to perform his duties due to health problems or an accident.

Francis said he wrote the letter several years ago and gave it to then-Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Darcisio Bertone, who resigned in 2013.

“I have already signed my resignation. The Secretary of State at the time was Darcisio Bertone. I signed it and said: ‘If I become weak for medical reasons or otherwise, here is my resignation,'” Francis was quoted as saying. This is the first time he has spoken publicly about the existence of the letter. .

Francis said that past pontiffs Paul VI and Pius XII had drawn up their letters of abdication in case of permanent incapacity.

In 2013, Francis’ immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, stunned the Catholic world with the almost unprecedented decision to resign from his position, citing “advanced age.”

It was the first time in nearly 600 years that a pope had resigned. The last pope to abdicate before his death was Gregory XII, who left in 1415 to end a civil war within the church.

This is a growing story…

CNN’s Delia Gallagher reported in Rome and Sharon Braithwaite in London.

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