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Pope Francis Was Hospitalized After Experiencing ‘Respiratory Difficulties’—Here’s The Latest on His Health

He had part of his lung removed when he was younger.
pope francis
Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

With news reports about his ailing health, many people are asking: is the Pope dead?

Pope Francis was appointed after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down and resigned from his role as head of the Catholic Church. Benedict’s resignation was the first since Gregory XII in 1415. In a statement from the Vatican, the Pope said, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

The current Pope has suffered from health problems in the past. With his new hospitalization, many people are wondering if the Pope is dead. Read more below to find out about his health problems.

Is the Pope dead?

Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Is the Pope dead? No, the Pope is not dead. On March 29, 2023, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be hospitalized for the days leading up to Holy Week. He does not have COVID-19 but other health problems.

“In recent days Pope Francis complained of some respiratory difficulties and this afternoon he went to Policlinico A. Gemelli for some medical checks,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement, referring to the Rome hospital where popes are normally treated. “The outcome of the same showed a respiratory infection (excluding Covid-19 infection) that will require a few days of appropriate hospital medical therapy.”

“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” Bruni added. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera later reported that he had arrived at the hospital in an ambulance, following heart and breathing problems after his traditional Wednesday Saint Peter’s Square address, which led him to cancel a scheduled TV interview. Earlier in the day, the Vatican had said his hospital visit was planned. “The Holy Father has been at Gemelli since this afternoon for some previously scheduled tests,” Bruni said.

The 86-year-old pontiff’s schedule for the two days after his hospitalization has been canceled, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, adding that the pope already had a chest CT scan and that his blood’s saturation levels were fine. No heart problems have been detected according to the news source. Overall, the situation should not be of particular concern, medical sources told ANSA.

When he was younger, Pope Francis survived severe pneumonia and had part of a lung removed. In 2021, the pope had roughly 13 inches of his large intestine removed because of what the Vatican said was inflammation that caused a narrowing of his colon. Francis told The Associated Press that bulges in his intestinal wall had “returned.”

In the interview with the Associated Press, he said, “I’m in good health. For my age, I’m normal,” he said, adding in a frequent flourish, “I might die tomorrow, but it’s under control. I’m in good health. ”

Pope Francis also revealed recently that he signed his resignation letter if in case he’s “impaired” in an interview with Spanish news outlet ABC via CNN. “I have already signed my renunciation. The Secretary of State at the time was Tarcisio Bertone. I signed it and said: ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my renunciation.” Francis has used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture.

Pope Francis
Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In the same interview with the Associated Press, Francis emphasized his role as “bishop of Rome” instead of Pontiff: “Continue being bishop, bishop of Rome in communion with all the bishops of the world.” He said he wanted to put to rest the concept of the papacy as a power player or papal “court.”

President Joe Biden reacted to the news at the start of an Oval Office meeting with President Alberto Fernández of Argentina, told reporters he had just learned of Francis’s health problems and said he was concerned about his dear “friend.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the day before 2023 on December 31, 2022.  For several days, he had experienced declining health due to his advanced age, the Vatican press office said, with Pope Francis publicly sharing news of Benedict’s worsening condition the week earlier. Benedict was the first Pope to resign in the Catholic church since the 1400s.

Pope Francis thanked Benedict’s “testimony of faith and prayer, especially in these final years of retired life” in a New Year’s Eve vigil. He added that only God knew “of his sacrifices offered for the good of the church.” In the Associated Press interview, he recounted Benedict as an “old-fashioned gentleman” and that he “lost a dad.” “For me, he was a security. In the face of a doubt, I would ask for the car and go to the monastery and ask,” he said of his visits to Benedict’s retirement home for counsel. “I lost a good companion.”

Pope Francis has had mixed messages of whether he wants to retire or not. According to USA today the outlet reported that Francis has hinted about retiring since early in his papacy, saying he would like to see retirement for popes “normalized.” In July, after a trip to Canada, Francis said “the door was open” to his retirement one day. He said that if he were to resign he’d be called the bishop emeritus of Rome and would live in the residence for retired priests in the diocese of Rome. Of his own health and future, he said, “It didn’t even occur to me to write a will.”

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