Pope has full day of appointments after going to hospital for tests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - The day after Pope Francis paid a brief visit to Rome's Gemelli Isola Hospital for "diagnostic tests," he had a full morning of audiences, including a meeting with bishops from Italy's Emilia Romagna region making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.

The bishops, including Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, had been scheduled to meet the pope Feb. 26, but the meeting was postponed to Feb. 29 because of what the Vatican press office described as "mild flu-symptoms."

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience Feb. 28, but began the gathering by telling visitors, "I'm still a bit sick," and having aides read most of his prepared remarks.

Immediately after the audience, "Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests. Afterward, he returned to the Vatican," said a statement Feb. 28 from the Vatican press office.

The Reuters news agency reported that the pope underwent a CT scan at the hospital on Rome's Tiber Island; the Vatican press office did not respond to a request for confirmation.

The 87-year-old pope had canceled his appointments Feb. 24 and Feb. 26, but he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Feb. 25 without obvious difficulty. The Vatican provided no health update Feb. 27 since Tuesdays are his usual day off and he did not have to cancel any appointments.

In addition to meeting the group of Italian bishops, Pope Francis had separate audiences Feb. 29 with: Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life; with Father Andrzej Komorowski, superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter; and with Archbishop Rui Manuel Sousa Valério of Lisbon, Portugal, and a group of people accompanying him. None of the audiences involved the pope making a speech or having someone read his text.

Arriving for his general audience Feb. 28, Pope Francis used a wheelchair instead of walking with his cane. His voice was hoarse and softer than usual.

Pope Francis also went to the Gemelli Isola Hospital in late November for a CT scan of his lungs. At the time, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office had said, "The CT scan ruled out pneumonia, but showed pulmonary inflammation that was causing some respiratory difficulties."

The problems forced him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 for the U.N. climate change summit. On several occasions in the first weeks of December, he had aides read his speeches for him. In mid-January, saying he had "a bit of bronchitis," he skipped several speeches although kept meeting different groups.

Pope Francis had undergone surgery in 1957 to remove part of one of his lungs after suffering a severe respiratory infection. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

But last year, he was hospitalized at the main Gemelli hospital March 29-April 1 for what doctors said was a "respiratory infection." He tested negative for COVID-19.

In 2022 the hospital on Rome's Tiber Island, founded and run by the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, became affiliated with the Gemelli hospital where St. John Paul II and Pope Francis himself have undergone surgery.


Caption: Pope Francis meets with the bishops of Italy's Emilia Romagna region as they made their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican Feb. 29, 2024. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops' conference, is seen listening as Pope Francis addresses the group. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)