Cardinal Blase Cupich urged Catholics across the Archdiocese of Chicago to join him in prayer “for the swift and complete recovery” of Pope Francis, who was hospitalized in Rome for a respiratory infection on Wednesday.
The 86-year-old pope, who had part of one lung removed decades ago due to a previous respiratory infection, began experiencing breathing difficulties and tests confirmed an infection. The illness is not COVID-19; Francis will remain at Gemelli Hospital in Rome for several days of treatment, according to the Vatican.
Francis was scheduled to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, the beginning of Holy Week services that will culminate with Easter Sunday on April 9; he has canceled all audiences through Friday, but it wasn’t clear whether he will be able to keep his plans for Holy Week observances.
President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he had just learned of Francis’ health problems, adding that he was concerned about his dear “friend.”
Francis had celebrated the 10th anniversary of his election on March 13, making history as the first Latin American pope, following the 2013 retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. Cupich had called upon Catholics to take part in a global effort to commemorate this 10-year anniversary by saying the Hail Mary prayer 10 times for Francis, who frequently asks the faithful to pray for him.
Cupich nodded to that project in requesting prayers for the pope’s health on Wednesday.
“Over the past month, people around the world prayed millions of Hail Marys to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Holy Father’s election to the chair of Peter,” he said in a statement. “We responded then to Pope Francis’ often-repeated request to pray for him. Let us continue our prayers, this time for the return of this extraordinary shepherd to good health and to his work of spreading the joy of God’s love and mercy.”
The Associated Press contributed.
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