THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROME—Pope Francis has promoted a Vatican nurse, whom he credits with saving his life, to become his “personal health care assistant.”
The Vatican announced the appointment of Massimiliano Strappetti in a one-line statement released Thursday. Strappetti, the Vatican health department’s nursing coordinator, accompanied Francis on a difficult trip to Canada last month.
Francis, 85, last year credited Strappetti with pinpointing an intestinal problem that led the pope to stay in hospital for 10 days in July 2021 to remove 33 centimeters (13 inches) from his colon that had shrunk.
“A nurse, a man with a lot of experience, saved my life,” Francis told COPE radio of the Spanish bishops’ conference in the months following his operation.
Francis noted that Strappetti’s operation was the second time a nurse had saved his life. A nurse in her native Argentina decided in 1957 to double the amount of medicine prescribed for the future pope, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, after part of his lung was removed due to a respiratory infection, he recalled.
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Francis has a personal physician, Dr. Roberto Bernabei, who was appointed last year. Bernabei is an internist and specialist in geriatrics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.
The pontiff has had a series of health issues over the past year, including strained ligaments in his right knee which have severely reduced his mobility. After months of magnetic and laser treatments, Francis can walk short distances with a cane or walker, although he also uses a wheelchair.
Strappetti was on hand to help with the wheelchair during Francis’ general audience on Wednesday. He coordinates nurses in the small Vatican health system, which provides basic care to Vatican employees and their families.
Strappetti’s appointment was announced days after he and a doctor accompanied Francis on his week-long “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada to atone for the Catholic Church’s role in the country’s boarding schools for Indigenous children. Francis always travels with a doctor and a nurse who are on call in case of health problems. Strappetti, for example, was present when Francis gave his major apology and received a feathered headdress from the native leaders.
On the flight home from the trip, Francis said he should slow down his future travels and maybe quit someday.
“This trip was a bit of a test. It’s true that we can’t make trips in this state, maybe we have to change the style a bit, reduce, pay the debts of the trips that I still have to do and reorganize, “he said. he says. But he added that “the door is open” to resign as well if he cannot continue.
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