28 February 2024

Pope taken to hospital in Rome following weekly audience

28 February 2024

The Pope has been taken to hospital in central Rome after the papal audience on Wednesday, having been suffering from the effects of mild flu in recent days.

The 86-year-old arrived at the Gemelli Hospital on Tiber Island in a small white Fiat 500 and leaving again under escort in the same car after a short period. The Vatican had no immediate comment on the matter.

Francis was pushed in a wheelchair into the audience hall at the Vatican earlier in the day, appearing weary as he dropped heavily into his seat.

In recent weeks he has walked the short distance to his chair, but he has been struggling with mild flu symptoms the past week.

In recent weeks he has walked the short distance to his chair, but he has been struggling with mild flu symptoms in the past week.

Francis also cancelled appointments on Saturday and Monday due to the flu, but appeared as usual for the Sunday blessing from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square.

The Pope used his brief words at the end of the audience to mark the 25th anniversary of the ratification of the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention, expressing his “closeness to the numerous victims of these insidious devices that remind us of the dramatic cruelty of war”.

He also appealed for peace in the Middle East, Ukraine and prayed for the victims of attacks in Burkina Faso and Haiti.

Last week, Francis coughed repeatedly during Ash Wednesday services that he presided over at a Roman church, and opted not to participate in the traditional procession that inaugurates the church’s Lenten season.

At this time of year in 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit Italy, Francis also suffered a bad cold that forced him to cancel several days of official audiences and his participation in the Vatican’s annual spiritual retreat.

The Argentine Pope had part of one lung removed as a young man because of a respiratory infection, and in 2021 had a chunk of his colon removed because of an intestinal inflammation.

He has been using a wheelchair and cane since last year because of strained knee ligaments and a small knee fracture that have made walking and standing difficult.

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