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Pope Francis hospitalized with respiratory infection

Pope Francis has been hospitalized in Rome with a respiratory infection, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The 86-year-old pontiff does not have COVID-19 and will need to spend "a few days" in the hospital, the Vatican said, adding that he "is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer."

Francis, who as a young man had part of one lung removed due to a respiratory infection, has had "some breathing difficulties" over the last few days, the Vatican said. He appeared at his weekly general audience earlier Wednesday, but canceled a television interview set for the afternoon in order to undergo tests at the hospital.

This comes ahead of the Vatican's Holy Week activities, which will begin on Palm Sunday. The pontiff's audiences through Friday have all been canceled.