Pope Francis, 86, from a Vatican Media file photo.

    Now the Pope is in a Roman hospital, resting after an incident yesterday, Wednesday, March 29, following his ordinary Wednesday audience. As he left the audience, onlookers saw him grimace as if in pain. Later, when he was back in his room, #201 in the Domus Santa Marta, he reportedly felt he had “pressure” in his chest and “difficulty breathing.” He at first told his doctors he did not think his condition was so serious that he needed to be hospitalized, but he yielded to the advice of those caretakers to go to the hospital.

    Now it is being reported that Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, who today was officially designated to take the Pope’s place in the moving but also long and tiring Palm Sunday liturgy on April 2 (which involves a procession with palm branches), “knew already on Monday” that he would be celebrating that liturgy in the Pope’s place.

    This report, from RAI, the national Italian television news, has led the editors of Il Sismografo (“The Seismograph,” an important Church news website, generally considered “favorable” to Pope Francis, that is, very supportive of him) to comment two hours ago, that there are mysteries about what is happening and how it is being communicated to the world:

    “This means that 24 hours before the Holy Father’s clinical event decisions were in progress regarding some of his absences in the Holy Week celebrations. As the hours go by, the health episode involving Pope Francis appears increasingly indecipherable. The given versions are not only different. They are also in contradiction with each other.” (link)

    The Vatican has said Francis knows about and is deeply appreciative of all the prayers being prayed worldwide for his health.

    Indeed, his “watchword” since his election in March 2013 — exactly 10 years ago — has been, “Please, pray for me,” something he has said as a regular request to all who have visited him, and something he specifically said also to me in 2013 when I presented my book about him to him in the Domus Santa Marta (link).

    So, since it is fitting for Christians to pray for those who ask for prayers, let us heed the oft-repeated request of Pope Francis to pray for him, that he may stay close to the Lord as he faces this illness, while continuing to carry out his earthly life and mission. Let us especially pray for Francis now, in this hour of his need. —RM

    Letter #82, 2023 Thursday, March 30: Francis

    Pope Francis is resting in a Roman hospital and official reports say his health is improving.

    A Vatican communique this morning, March 30, by the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni, reads (link):

    His Holiness Pope Francis rested well during the night. The clinical picture is gradually improving and the scheduled treatments are continuing. This morning after having breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed work. Before lunch he went to the small chapel of the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer and received the Eucharist.

    [In the original Italian: “Sua Santità Papa Francesco ha riposato bene durante la notte. Il quadro clinico è in progressivo miglioramento e prosegue le cure programmate. Questa mattina dopo aver fatto colazione, ha letto alcuni quotidiani ed ha ripreso il lavoro. Prima del pranzo si è recato nella Cappellina dell’appartamento privato, dove si è raccolto in preghiera ed ha ricevuto l’eucarestia.”]

    This is the 3rd communiqué since yesterday, Wednesday, March 29, at approximately 3.45 pm, when it was confirmed that Pope Francis was at the Gemelli Polyclinic for “scheduled” checks.

    Then on the evening of the 29th, with a second note, it was said that the Pontiff was hospitalized suffering from a “lung infection” (without other clinical details).

    Here below are those two notes.

    The 1st communication from March 29, yesterday at about 3:45 p.m.:

    Il Santo Padre si trova da questo pomeriggio al Gemelli per alcuni controlli precedentemente programmati.” (The Vatican official English translation: “This afternoon the Holy Father is attending Gemelli Hospital for some previously scheduled checks.”)

    The 2nd communication, from the evening of March 29:

    Nei giorni scorsi Papa Francesco ha lamentato alcune difficoltà respiratorie e questo pomeriggio si è recato presso il Policlinico A. Gemelli per effettuare alcuni controlli medici. L’esito degli stessi ha evidenziato un’infezione respiratoria (esclusa l’infezione da Covid 19) che richiederà alcuni giorni di opportuna terapia medica ospedaliera. Papa Francesco è toccato dai tanti messaggi ricevuti ed esprime la propria gratitudine per la vicinanza e la preghiera.”

    (The official English translation: “In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some respiratory difficulties, and this afternoon he attended the A. Gemelli Hospital to undergo some medical checks. The outcome of these showed a respiratory infection (excluding Covid 19 infection) which will require a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment. Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayers.”)


    As in the Pope’s previous hospitalization, from 4 to 14 July 2021, for the removal of a segment (about 13 inches) of his colon, this time too the press releases from the Vatican press office do not bear the signature of any doctor.


    As the Pope rests in his hospital bed, we thought it fitting to offer the text of an interview he gave earlier this month to the Argentine priest Fr Guillermo Marcó, who was for a number of years the spokesman of the Pope during the time when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires; the interview was published on March 14 by the Vatican News website (link, and posted below).

    In the interview, the Pope says “I would not change being a priest for any other thing.”


    We will keep you posted on the Pope’s health.

    Here below is an excellent AP summary by Nicole Winfield, followed by the interview the Pope gave earlier this month, in which he speaks of his priesthood.—RM

    Note: If you would like to pilgrimage to Rome and Germany with me, studying the writing and life of Pope Benedict XVI, consider joining our pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI,” from June 28 to July 6 this summer (link). The picture below shows where we will be…

    P.S. Inside the Vatican magazine subscriptions are available at a price of $20 per year in honor of the 30th year since our founding. After Easter, the offer will no longer be available…. Click here to subscribe at this very reduced rate.

    P.P.S. If you would like to support us, here is a link to our donation page. Thank you in advance!

The Gemelli Hospital in Rome where Pope Francis is receiving treatment (Vatican Media)

    Vatican: Pope improving since hospitalization with infection (link)

    By Nicole Winfield

    March 30, 2023

    ROME (AP) — Pope Francis rested well overnight and was “progressively improving” Thursday, the Vatican said, after he was hospitalized with a respiratory infection that has called into question his participation in Palm Sunday and upcoming Holy Week events.

    The 86-year-old pontiff, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, ate breakfast, read the newspapers and was working from his hospital room at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, according to a statement from Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

    “Before lunch he went to the little chapel in the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer and received the Eucharist,” the statement said.

    Francis was hospitalized Wednesday after having trouble breathing in recent days and was diagnosed with a respiratory infection that wasn’t COVID-19. The Vatican said he would remain for a few days of treatment; his audiences were canceled through Friday.

    Despite his absence, the Vatican was abuzz with activity Thursday: Two Vatican offices issued an historic statement repudiating the “Doctrine of Discovery,” the legal theory backed by 15th-century papal bulls that legitimized the colonial-era seizure of Native lands and form the basis of some property law today.

    And there was continued fallout over the sudden resignation of a founding member of the pope’s sex abuse prevention board, with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley pushing back against Rev. Hans Zollner’s critiques in his remarkable resignation statement issued the previous day.

    Francis is scheduled to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, and it wasn’t clear how his medical condition would affect the Vatican’s Holy Week observances, which include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9.

    His hospitalization was the first since Francis had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed and spent 10 days at the Gemelli hospital in July 2021.

    He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a Jan. 24 interview with The Associated Press, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned.”

    Before he was admitted to the hospital Wednesday, the pope had appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience, though he grimaced strongly while getting in and out of the “popemobile.”

    Francis has used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture, though he had been walking more with a cane of late.

    Francis has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn’t respond well to general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

    [End AP article]

    Pope Francis: “I would not exchange being a priest for anything else” (link)

    By Guillermo Marcó

    Walking through St. Peter’s Square, I think of the millions of people who would like to have a chat with Pope Francis. I have had this rare privilege for years. In Buenos Aires I used to talk to him, sometimes more than once a day. Today contacts are less frequent, but he retains the freshness of closeness and friendship acquired over the years; he has not changed in this respect … Listening to him is especially interesting …

    Fr. Guillermo Marcó: The first thing I want to ask you is what attracts you most in following Jesus.

    Pope Francis: I can’t express it verbally. What I can say is that when I am in tune with him I feel at peace, I feel happy. When I don’t follow him, because I’m tired, because I set him a specific time or a time limit, I feel insipid. It is as if I were already filled with my own life… Someone once said to me: “God gives you freedom, he always gives you freedom, but once you know Jesus you lose your freedom.” This put me in crisis. I don’t know if one “loses” it or not, but the way in which the Lord calls you and establishes a dialogue with you makes you say: “No, I’m not going anywhere else, this is enough for me.” So I feel that balance – in the good sense of the term, not just psychological – of peace, even in those moments of great imbalance due to situations difficult to face.

    There, in that confessional of the parish of San José de Flores, you were able to discern your vocation: what did you feel was particularly special in that call?

    It’s curious because after that experience on September 21, I went on with my life without knowing what I was going to do. But there was something different that was slowly establishing itself. I didn’t leave there to go directly into the seminary… It was three years. It’s like a process that changes your orientations, your references. The Lord enters your life and rearranges it. And without taking away your freedom. I’ve never had the feeling that I’m not free.

    You continue to define yourself as a “priest”: what do you like most about the priestly vocation?

    Living [a life of] service. Once a priest told me – he lived in a very poor neighborhood, not a slum but almost, and he had his parish house next to the church – and he told me that when he had to close the door, people banged on the window. So he said to me: “I want to close that window too because they won’t leave you alone.” People won’t leave you alone. But on the other hand, he told me that if I closed the window it wouldn’t be quiet, but something much worse. Because once you get into the rhythm of service, you feel bad when you take a slice of selfishness for yourself. The vocation to service is a bit like this: you cannot imagine life if you are not living in service. I wouldn’t trade being a priest for anything after the experience of being a priest. With limits, errors, sins, but a priest.

    What do you say to priests?

    What I say to a priest is: “Be a priest.” And if it doesn’t work for you, find another way; the Church opens other doors for you. But don’t become a functionary. I like to say this: be a pastor of the people and not just a “public clergyman.”

    How do you perceive the fraternity among the cardinals?

    In the long run there is closeness. They may have different opinions, but the good thing is that they tell you what they think. I am afraid of hidden agendas – when you have something to say and don’t say it. I thank God that in the College of Cardinals there is communication, between both the new and the old, and that they have the freedom to speak… I don’t know if everyone does, but many do. Sometimes, “Hey, be careful of this” or “look out” … “Oh, thank you.” I think about it and then I solve it, I tell him how… or else I don’t listen to him, and I say: look, I didn’t listen to you because of this, this and this. But the dialogue is free.

    You have your devotions. Here is this painting of Our Lady Undoer of Knots, a devotion begun in Germany. Can you tell us why you always sent it with notes in your envelopes?

    I’ve never gone to where the original image is. It just happened that a German nun sent it to me as a greeting. I liked it. I began to have a devotion to this image in Argentina. The story is beautiful, though the picture is not worth much; it is from the low baroque of the 1700s, already decadent. It was by a painter of the time who put his wife through hell: they were very Catholic but fought every day. And one day he read the text of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, according to which the knots that our mother Eve had tied with her sin had been untied by our mother Mary with her obedience. The Council took it and inserted it, I believe, in the Constitution on the Church.

    He liked it and so he asked Our Lady to untie the knot he had with his wife because they didn’t get along. And this is why, below, he paints the archangel Raphael with Tobias who leads him to look for his fiancée (now his wife) to meet her. The Virgin performed the miracle and it all started from there. I have taken on the devotion. Augsburg is the city – in the church of St. Peter in Perlach. I’ve never gone, though I was just a stone’s throw from there, in Frankfurt. But this was enough for me and the devotion was already starting in Argentina. It is as if Our Lady is able to help you, as the text of Saint Irenaeus says, to help you unblock things.

    To unblock the knots of life.

    It is the “motherhood” of the Madonna.

    And what about St. Joseph?

    It was my grandmother who put St. Joseph into my head… As a child she made me say prayers to St. Joseph. The devotion remained.

    You also have a small picture of St. Joseph sleeping. Special intentions are placed upon it.

    When they ask me for prayers, I put them below it. I say: “You who sleep, solve these problems.”

    And Saint Therese?

    Santa Teresina has always attracted me… The courage of the normal person. If you ask me what extraordinary things Saint Therese had done: none. She was a poor and normal nun. In her last days she also suffered the greatest darkness, the greatest temptations against the faith – she went through them all. She is a normal woman.

    Finally, I ask you for short messages. The first message is aimed at children:

    Take care of your grandparents. Talk to grandparents. Go visit your grandparents. Let the grandparents spoil you.

    To the young people…

    Don’t be afraid of life. Don’t stand still. Go on. You will make mistakes, but the worst mistake is to stand still, so keep going.

    To the fathers and mothers…

    Don’t waste love. Take care of each other, so you can take better care of your children.

    To the sick…

    Ah, this is difficult because advising patience is easy, but I don’t have it, so I understand when you get a little angry. Ask the Lord for the grace of patience and he will give you the grace to bear all of this.

    Finally to the elders, of whom you speak so often…

    To the elderly: do not forget that you are the roots. The elderly must pass this on to young people, children and teenagers. That verse from the Book of Joel: what is your calling as an elder – the old will see visions and the young will prophesy. When they are together, the old dream of the future and pass it on, and the young, supported by the old, are able to prophesy and work for the future. Together with the young people, do not be afraid of anything. An embittered old man is very sad. He’s worse than a sad young man. So go ahead, be together with the youth.

    [End Fr. Guillermo Marcó interview with Pope Francis published on March 14]

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