Pope Francis is in hospital with a respiratory infection

  • Written by David Giglione and Alice Davies
  • in Rome and London

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Pope Francis attended his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier on Wednesday

The Vatican said Pope Francis has a respiratory infection and will need to spend “a few days” in a hospital in Rome.

The statement said the pope had suffered from breathing difficulties in recent days but was not suffering from Covid.

He will need “a few days of proper medical treatment in the hospital”.

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

His closest staff, including security, were expected to spend the night at Gemelli Hospital, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told the BBC earlier.

This is the busiest time of the year for Pope Francis, 86, with many events and services scheduled before the Easter weekend.

Palm Sunday masses are scheduled for this weekend, and Holy Week and Easter celebrations next week.

He is also scheduled to visit Hungary at the end of April.

On Wednesday mornings he presided over his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Although he appeared to be in good spirits, he was seen broken as he was helped into his car.

The Pope has suffered from mobility problems related to his knee in recent months, which has forced him to use a wheelchair.

Despite his ailments, the pope has remained active and has taken trips abroad this year. He visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan in February.

In January, the pope led the funeral of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI — who was the first pope to step down voluntarily for centuries. He said this was due to ill health.

Pope Francis has previously indicated that he may also wish to follow in Benedict’s footsteps should his health deteriorate.

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From February: BBC religious affairs editor Aleem Maqbool witnesses the Pope’s visit to Kinshasa

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