Vatican issues Pope Francis health update

Pope Francis is still suffering from a cold as he again limited his speaking at a weekly audience in St Peter’s Square, letting an aide read his prepared text.

The 87-year-old’s health has been an issue over the past two weeks, forcing him to cancel some engagements and avoid reading some speeches.

The Vatican said on February 24 he was suffering from mild flu. Last week, Francis paid a brief visit to a hospital in Rome for a CT scan, and on Saturday he said he had bronchitis.

Francis told Wednesday’s audience he would delegate readings “because I still have a cold and I cannot read well”. However, he spoke briefly at the end of the event, greeting some of the faithful and pleading for peace in Ukraine and the Middle East.

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

Pope Francis during a private audience with German Chancellor

(VATICAN MEDIA/AFP via Getty Imag)

Francis, who has trouble walking, arrived in his specially designed vehicle known as the popemobile, and reached his seat walking with a cane. After the audience, he was placed in a wheelchair to greet people. He then tried to climb back into the popemobile but appeared unable to do so, and was helped back into the wheelchair to exit St Peter’s Square.

Francis’ mobility struggles may complicate travel plans for this year, which include trips on unspecified dates to Belgium, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Within Italy he is due to travel to Venice on April 28 and Verona on May 18.

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.

Health issues aside, the pontiff has remained busy in recent days, meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday and making another appeal for an end to the Gaza war on Sunday.

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