Pope Francis, weakened by ‘a bit of a cold,’ has aide read reflection before hospital visit

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on Feb. 28, 2024. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis, still visibly suffering from a “cold,” visited a Rome hospital for diagnostic tests on Wednesday following his weekly general audience, at which an aide read the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.

The Holy See Press Office later confirmed the hospital visit, adding that the pope already had returned to the Vatican.

“I still have a bit of a cold, which is why I asked Monsignor [Filippo] Ciampanelli to read today’s catechesis,” Pope Francis said at the start of the morning general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall. He arrived at the hall in his wheelchair shortly before 9 a.m. and did not walk to his chair with a cane as he typically does.

The pope also had an aide read his prepared remarks at an earlier morning meeting Wednesday with members of the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the 87-year-old pontiff canceled his audiences for the day due to what the Vatican described as a “mild flu-like condition.” He delivered the Angelus address the following day from the window of the Apostolic Palace without any obvious signs of illness. He cleared his schedule on Monday again as a “precautionary measure” due to “mild flu symptoms,” the Holy See Press Office said.


On Monday Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, spoke to journalists at an event in Rome, noting that the pope “had this flu episode but he recovered.” 

“I was supposed to go to him this evening, but I’m here, the hearing had not been suspended. So it means that he has recovered and resumed his normal activity,” Parolin said at the time.

Focus on envy, vainglory

During the Wednesday general audience, the pope continued his ongoing catechetical series on vice and virtue, focusing this time on envy and vainglory. 

Reflecting on the universal fascination of these closely associated vices, Pope Francis observed that envy is an “evil” that has been studied both under a Christian theological lens as well as by “philosophers and wise men of every culture.”

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The pope’s reflection noted that envy sits at the matrix between “hate and love,” where “one desires evil for the other, but secretly desires to be like him.” The pope observed that this vice is predicated upon a “false idea of God,” noting that it arises when “we do not accept that God has his own ‘math,’ different from ours.” 

The pope’s reflection then turned to vainglory, which is tied to “the demon of envy.” When taken together they are “characteristic of a person who aspires to be the center of the world, free to exploit everything and everyone, the object of all praise and love,” he noted.

“Vainglory,” the pope’s reflection continued, “is an inflated and baseless self-esteem. The vainglorious person possesses an unwieldy ‘I.’ He has no empathy and takes no notice of the fact that there are other people in the world besides him.” For the pope, those who display this vice see human relations through a transactional lens and struggle with a mistaken sense of self-aggrandizement. 

“His person, his accomplishments, his achievements must be shown to everyone: He is a perpetual beggar for attention. And if at times his qualities are not recognized, he becomes fiercely angry,” the pope observed. 

The pope’s reflection closed by noting that the antidote to overcoming the internal weakness brought on by these twin vices is accepting the grace of God. 


“And his conclusion should also become ours: ‘I will therefore gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me,’” Pope Francis concluded, quoting from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.