Saturday, December 10, 2022

Pope Francis appoints a personal medical assistant

by Philip Pullela

August 4 – Pope Francis has appointed a nurse from Vatican health services to be his “personal medical assistant”, the Vatican said in a sign Thursday that the pontiff acknowledges will require more care as she ages.

Speaking to reporters on a plane back from a trip to Canada on Saturday, the 85-year-old pontiff said his advancing age and difficulty walking had begun a new, slower phase of his papacy.

In a statement, the Vatican identified the assistant as Massimiliano Strappetti, coordinator of nursing and health facilities for the Vatican, a sovereign state surrounded by Rome.

The position of “private medical assistant” did not previously exist in this papacy, although John Paul II, who died in 2005, had several medical caregivers in the last years of his life.

Francisco already has a private doctor, a specialist in geriatrics from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where the Argentine cleric had undergone bowel surgery a year earlier. The Pope was hospitalized for the first time since his election in 2013.

Last year, Francisco joked in an interview that it was Strepetti who “saved my life” by explaining that he could no longer postpone the operation.

Francisco was suffering from severe narrowing of the colon due to diverticulitis, or the formation of small bulging sacs in the intestinal wall.

In recent months, Pope has had to use a wheelchair, cane or walker because of knee pain caused by a small fracture and an inflamed ligament.

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