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Pope in hospital for check-up: Italian media

AFP . Rome
06 Jun 2023 18:06:29 | Update: 06 Jun 2023 18:10:09
Pope in hospital for check-up: Italian media
In this file photo taken on May 25, 2023 Pope Francis arrives to take part in the "Eco-Educational Cities" conference organised by Scholas Ocurrentes and aimed at promoting education and sustainability at the Augustinian Patristic Pontifical Institute in Rome — AFP Photo

Pope Francis visited a Rome hospital for a medical check-up on Tuesday, according to Italian media, just over two months after he was hospitalised with bronchitis.

The 86-year-old pope arrived at the Gemelli hospital's geriatric unit for tests at 10:40 am (0840 GMT) and left again at 11:20am, according to ANSA and AGI news agencies.

Neither the Vatican nor the hospital was immediately able to confirm the news to AFP.

Francis was forced to take a day off at the end of last month with a fever, which the Vatican secretary of state blamed on tiredness.

The pope does not have public audiences scheduled on Tuesdays. His general audience at the Vatican was confirmed for Wednesday, according his official schedule.

Tuesday's check-up was a planned one, the Repubblica newspaper said, citing a Vatican source. The pontiff was undergoing specialised scans, it said.

When Francis was hospitalised at the end of March the Vatican initially said in a one-line statement that he had gone into the Gemelli for health checks that were previously scheduled.

It later emerged that he had been rushed in after suffering breathing difficulties.

He was diagnosed with bronchitis and stayed in hospital for three nights, before returning to the Vatican to preside over Easter services.

Asked how he felt, he quipped with a big smile, "I am still alive!"

Francis, who has been the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics for a decade, has suffered increasing health issues over the past year.

He has persistent pain in his right knee as well as sciatica, and his hospital stay for bronchitis sparked widespread concern.

Just in time

It also fuelled speculation over his future. Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, who died in December, quit in 2013 due to failing health.

For about a year, the pope has had to rely on a wheelchair due to recurring knee pain he has said cannot be treated through surgery.

Asked about his health in an interview with US Spanish-language network Telemundo broadcast in May, Francis said it was "much better".

"I can walk now. My knee has been mending. I could hardly walk beforehand. Now I can. Some days are more painful than others," the pope said.

Francis added that doctors had caught his bronchitis infection just in time.

"If we'd waited a few more hours, it would've been much more serious. But I was out (of hospital) in four days," he said.

Despite his health issues, Francis continues to travel widely.

His next planned trip is to Lisbon on August 2-6 to attend World Youth Day.

But the pope acknowledged in July 2022 that he needed to slow down.

 "At my age and with this limitation, I have to save myself a little bit to be able to serve the Church," he said then. "Or, alternatively, to think about the possibility of stepping aside."

In March, however, he insisted that he had no current plans to quit. Benedict XVI, who died on December 31 aged 95, surprised the world in 2013 when he announced he was stepping down, a radical move not taken by a pope since the Middle Ages.