Pope Francis Appoints Nurse as His "personal health care assistant"

Pope Francis greets the crowd in a wheelchair at his general audience, Aug. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Vatican announced Thursday that Pope Francis has appointed a “personal health care assistant.”

Pope Francis has selected Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse whom the pope has credited with saving his life, to provide additional assistance as the 85-year-old pope faces mobility problems. 

“A nurse, a man with a lot of experience, saved my life,” Pope Francis told Spanish COPE radio after his colon surgery last summer.

Strappetti advised Pope Francis to undergo tests after he had his first flare-up of diverticulitis in February 2021, according to La Repubblica. He, along with the pope’s other medical staff, recommended that the pope have an operation to keep the problem from becoming worse.

The Vatican nurse was also part of Pope Francis’ medical team during his trip to Canada, accompanying the 85-year-old pope during some of his public appearances in a wheelchair.


In his new role, Strapetti will work with Pope Francis’ personal physician, Dr. Roberto Bernabei, a professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

The 52-year-old nurse has worked in the Vatican since 2002, after eight years in the intensive care unit at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. He served as the coordinator for the nurses in the Vatican health care system and played an active role in the Vatican’s medical charity for the homeless.

Pope Francis’ appointment of the new medical assistant on Aug. 4 comes days after he told journalists on his return flight from Canada that he may need to slow down a bit with his travel schedule due to his health.

The pope has alternated between the use of a cane and a wheelchair during his public audiences since May, when he began medical treatment for a knee injury. Pope Francis also postponed international trips to Lebanon and South Sudan due to his health.

“I don't think I can move at the same pace of travel as before,” the pope said during an in-flight press conference on July 30.

More in Vatican

“I think that at my age and with this limitation I have to cut back a little bit to be able to serve the Church or on the contrary think about the possibility of stepping aside.”

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.