MANILA - Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown on Thursday asked for prayers for Pope Francis, who was taken to a hospital in Rome due to a respiratory infection.
While hoping that the pope's condition is "nothing too serious," Brown appealed for Filipinos to pray for the pontiff's good health and speedy recovery.
"As your apostolic nuncio here in the Philippines, I want to ask each and every one of you to pray in a very special way during this Holy Week to Pope Francis," Brown said in a video message.
"I just received word that he's been taken to the hospital. God willing, it's nothing too serious but we need to pray for Pope Francis."
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon (Rome time), Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni said the 86-year-old pope was taken to Gemelli hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties over the past few days.
COVID-19 was ruled out but test results showed respiratory infection that will require a few days of appropriate hospital medical treatment.
Prior to hospitalization, the pope was still able to preside over the Wednesday General Audience at Saint Peter's Square, where he usually meets pilgrims and delivers a short catechism.
Reports from the Italian media said the pope arrived at the hospital in an ambulance after canceling a scheduled interview.
The Vatican said Pope Francis is "touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer."
The pope's hospitalization came days ahead of Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of the Holy Week — a busy time for the pontiff who usually presides over various liturgies all the way to Easter.
As of writing, the Vatican has not released any announcement on whether Pope Francis will still be able to lead the Holy Week rites.
Pope Francis, who just celebrated his 10th year as the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics across the world, has been visibly suffering from health problems after his hospitalization last year.
Since then, the pope has been using a wheelchair and a walking stick to attend to his engagements, including his trips abroad.
The pope has also opted to remain seated for most parts of the holy mass where he presides. To avoid standing near the altar, particularly during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the pope usually appoints senior cardinals and other prelates to lead the prayers.
As a young man in Argentina, a part of one of his lungs was removed due to infection.
Francis's health has been a subject of discussions among Church watchers, including the possibility of him stepping down from his position.
His predecessor, Benedict XVI, became the first pope in modern times to renounce the papacy. In his abdication, the German-born pope cited declining health as a factor in his decision. He passed away last January at the age of 95.
But Francis, despite praising his predecessor's decision to step down and even admitting that he already wrote a resignation letter to be used when he becomes incapacitated, recently said that popes' resignation should not be the norm.
And amid advancing age, Francis said that resignation is not in his mind as of now.