Pope Francis says he can relate directly to COVID-19 sufferers given his own near-fatal brush with death from a respiratory disease decades ago.
Francis was hospitalised in his native Argentina in August 1957, when he came down with a lung infection. He was in his second year of seminary, aged 20.
“For months, I did not know who I was if I was going to live or die. Not even doctors knew whether I would make it,” the 83-year-old recalls in a forthcoming book.
“One day I asked my mother, hugging her, to tell me if I was going to die […] I know from experience how coronavirus patients attached to a ventilator are feeling while fighting to breathe,” he adds.
The quotes are from “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future,” a book Pope Francis co-wrote with his English biographer, Austen Ivereigh, due to come out on December 1.
An excerpt was published Monday by La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, and it was picked up by Vatican News, the Vatican’s official news site.
In the book, Pope Francis recalled two other so-called “COVID situations” in which he felt isolated and lonely, like a patient under quarantine.
One was his 1986 months-long stay in a Jesuit Theology School in Frankfurt, Germany, to learn German and do research for a doctorate. “I felt like a fish out of water,” he writes.
Argentina won the football World Cup during that period, and the Pope says that having no-one to celebrate that victory with made him feel even more homesick.