Pope Francis has seen 'marked improvement' during bronchitis treatment

Pope Francis has seen a ‘marked improvement’ as he is treated in hospital for bronchitis and should be back home ‘in the coming days’

  • Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Wednesday
  • A Vatican source said on Friday morning that last night had ‘passed peacefully’

Pope Francis spent a peaceful second night in hospital for treatment of bronchitis, a Vatican source said Friday, after doctors reported a ‘marked improvement’ in the 86-year-old’s condition.

The pontiff was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Wednesday after complaining of breathing difficulties.

Medical staff said in a statement late on Thursday that Pope Francis was suffering from an ‘infectious bronchitis which required the administration of antibiotics’.

The treatment has resulted in ‘a marked improvement in his state of health’ and the pontiff could be back home in the Vatican ‘in the coming days’, it said.

By Thursday morning, Pope Francis was feeling well enough to eat, pray and work from his private suite on the tenth floor of the hospital, according to the Vatican.

The shock statement comes despite the Pope looking in good health as he took part in the weekly general audience earlier today

It comes after the Pope’s spokesman said that he was attending the Gemelli Hospital (pictured) in Rome for some previously scheduled check-ups

‘Last night also passed peacefully,’ the source said on Friday morning.

‘According to the information I have, he will leave the Gemelli tomorrow,’ the dean of the college of cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, said on Friday.

‘That way, he could preside over all the Holy Week rites,’ Re said.

Due to a chronic knee problem, Francis had already largely stopped celebrating Mass at major Catholic Church holy days but continued to preside at the ceremonies and deliver homilies. 

The pope’s illness has raised questions over whether he will be at services in the Holy Week and Easter, the Christian faith’s most important holiday.

Francis would normally preside over the celebrations, which begin this weekend with Palm Sunday. 

The pope’s infection, just weeks after he marked 10 years as head of the worldwide Catholic Church, has sparked widespread concern, while also fuelling speculation about his future.

READ MORE: How Pope Francis has battled health problems over the years: From a lung operation aged 22 to sciatica, colon surgery and knee ligament pain that left him wheelchair-bound 

Pope Francis sits in a wheelchair at the end of his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on March 29, 2023

The Argentine, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, has suffered increasing health issues in recent years, and it was his second stay in hospital since 2021.

Pope Francis’ health has attracted increasing scrutiny ever since his predecessor, Benedict XVI, became the first pontiff to resign from his post as head of the Vatican as a result of ill-health in 2013.

Benedict died on December 31, 2022, and Pope Francis has since been open about the prospect of following his predecessor’s example and stepping down from the papacy should his health continue to deteriorate.

The 86-year-old’s hospitalisation also revived speculation over the possibility Francis will soon tender his resignation.

Pope Francis continues to travel internationally and keep a busy schedule.

However, he has been forced to use a wheelchair and walking stick in the past year because of knee pain, and admitted last summer that he had to slow down.

He said on Thursday that he was ‘touched by the many messages’ he was receiving in hospital, thanking on Twitter those praying for his recovery.

Among them is US President Joe Biden, only the second Catholic president in US history.

‘Jill and I are keeping Pope Francis in our prayers and send our best wishes for his swift and full recovery,’ Biden tweeted.

‘The world needs Pope Francis.’

Pope Francis was admitted in July 2021 to the same Rome hospital for 10 days for a colon operation after suffering from a type of diverticulitis, an inflammation of pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine.

In an interview in January, the pope said the diverticulitis had returned.

Pope Francis has repeatedly said he would consider stepping down if his health required it, following the example of his predecessor.

Francis has cautioned, however, that papal resignations should not be the norm, and said in an interview in February that the idea was currently not ‘on my agenda’.

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