Pope picks new doctor after previous one died from COVID-19

The 84-year-old pontiff picked Roberto Bernabei, an expert in health care for the elderly, as his physician, the Vatican said in a statement.

Pope Francis speaks during his sermon as he leads a Christmas Eve mass to mark the nativity of Jesus Christ on 24 December 2020, at St Peter's basilica in the Vatican. Picture: AFP

ROME - Pope Francis appointed a new personal doctor on Wednesday, several weeks after the death from COVID-19 of the previous holder of the post.

The 84-year-old pontiff picked Roberto Bernabei, an expert in health care for the elderly, as his physician, the Vatican said in a statement.

Bernabei, 69, leads the geriatrics and rehabilitative medicine department at Rome's Gemelli, the Catholic hospital where popes are traditionally treated.

The last papal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, died aged 78 on January 9 of COVID-19-related pulmonary complications, following a hospitalisation for cancer.

Francis is believed to be in relative good health, despite having had part of his lung removed when he was a young man after developing pleurisy.

Last month he cancelled several events due to a bout of sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes hip pain and makes him walk with a slight limp.

Also in January, the pope received the coronavirus vaccine alongside his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI.

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