Pope will not lead Easter services after being taken to hospital
Pope Francis will not preside over Easter services this year after being taken to hospital with a respiratory infection, it emerged on Thursday.
Cardinals will share the Pope’s duties, starting with Palm Sunday this weekend and ending with Easter Sunday. “We have divided up the various celebrations,” Cardinal Giovani Battista Re told Italian news agencies.
Cardinal Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, said Pope Francis was expected to attend the main Mass on Easter Sunday in St Peter’s Basilica but not to lead it.
Last year, the pontiff sat to one side during some Easter events because of knee pain, leaving it to senior cardinals to lead the Masses.
The Vatican said the Pope “rested well” after being taken to hospital on Wednesday night. The 86-year-old was admitted after complaining of breathing difficulties, and was diagnosed with a respiratory infection.
“This morning, after having breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed work,” Matteo Bruni, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement. “Before lunch, he went to the little chapel in his private apartment, where he gathered in prayer and received the Eucharist.”
The Pope was continuing to receive medical treatment, Mr Bruni added. Messages wishing him a swift recovery poured in, with Joe Biden, the US president, urging attendees at a White House reception to “say an extra prayer”.
Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, sent the Argentinian pontiff his “most affectionate wishes for a very speedy recovery”.
Pope Francis is also the Bishop of Rome, and in a message the diocese wished him a “speedy recovery”, saying clergy were engaged in “unceasing prayer”.
Medical tests conducted overnight ruled out pneumonia, Covid and heart problems. The Vatican initially said on Wednesday that Francis had been admitted to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for pre-planned tests.
Hours later, amid speculation about the true state of his health, it said that he was suffering from breathing difficulties and a chest infection.
Pope Francis suffers from knee problems, which have often forced him to use a wheelchair. He had part of one lung removed when he was a young man because of a respiratory infection.
He has said in the past that he might resign, like his predecessor Benedict XVI, if ailing health makes it impossible for him to continue doing his job.
In December, Francis revealed that he has signed a letter of resignation to be used if he is unable to perform his duties for health reasons. He said he would resign if he felt too tired and no longer had the mental clarity to lead the Catholic Church.
In the summer of 2021, at the same hospital in Rome, he underwent a serious operation in which part of his colon was removed, after which he spent 10 days in the care of doctors, and has said he has “less physical strength” than he did when he was elected a decade ago as the successor to Benedict.