Pope praises Vatican nurse credited with saving his life

Pope Francis appointed the Vatican nurse who saved his life as his “Personal Health Assistant”.

The Vatican announced the appointment of Massimiliano Strappetti in a one-line statement on Thursday.

Mr. Strappetti, coordinator of nursing for the Vatican’s health department, accompanied Francis on a difficult trip to Canada last month.

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Massimiliano Strappetti stands next to Francis during the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Francis, 85, credited him last year with pinpointing the intestinal problem that led to the Pope’s 10-day hospital stay in July 2021 to have 13 inches of his narrowed colon removed.

“The nurse, a man of great experience, saved my life,” Francis said at a conference of Spanish bishops a few months after the operation.

Francis noted that Mr. Strappetti’s intervention was the second time a nurse had saved his life. A nurse in his native Argentina decided in 1957 to double the amount of medication the dad-to-be, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was prescribed after part of his lung was removed due to a respiratory infection, he recalls.

Francis has a personal physician, Dr. Roberto Bernabei, who was appointed last year. Dr. Bernabei is an internist and geriatrician at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

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Massimiliano Strappetti (right) follows Francis in the square at Nakasuk Primary School in Iqaluit, Canada. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

The pontiff has had a number of health problems in the past year, the most significant of which was a sprain in his right knee, which drastically reduced his mobility.

After months of magnetic and laser treatment, he is able to walk short distances with a cane or walker, although he also uses a wheelchair.

Mr. Strappetti was there to help with the wheelchair during Francis’ general audience on Wednesday. He coordinates the nurses of the small Vatican health system, which provides basic care to Vatican staff and their families.

His appointment was announced days after he and a doctor accompanied Francis on his week-long “penitent pilgrimage” to Canada to redeem the Catholic Church’s role in the country’s boarding schools for indigenous children.

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Massimiliano Strappetti (left) watches as the Pope puts on a native Canadian headdress. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Francis always travels with a doctor and nurse on duty in case he develops a health problem, and Mr. Strappetti was there when Francis apologized and received a feathered headdress from the indigenous leaders.

On his way home from the trip, Francis said he would have to slow down his travels and perhaps one day retire.

“This trip was kind of a test. It’s true that you can’t make trips in this condition, we may have to change the style a bit, cut back, pay off debt on trips that I have yet to take and reorganize,” he said.

He added that “the door is open” for resigning if he is unable to continue.