Updated: January 11, 2021 07:08 AM GMT
Pope Francis with Fabrizio Soccorsi, his personal physician. (Photo: Vatican News)
The personal physician of Pope Francis, Fabrizio Soccorsi, has died of complications from Covid-19 infection, the Vatican reported on Jan. 10.
The 78-year-old doctor had been undergoing treatment for an oncological disease. He was admitted to Rome's Gemelli Hospital on Dec. 26. He died on Jan. 9.
Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, which reported the death, did not say when was the physician's last close contact with Pope Francis.
The death came a day before the pontiff confirmed that he has already signed up to receive the vaccine against the viral pandemic. The confirmation came in a television interview.
The Vatican is scheduled to start the vaccination in the last fortnight of this month.
In an interview with Italy's Canale 5 channel on Jan. 10, Pope Francis confirmed that he would be vaccinated.
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine. It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” the 84-year-old pontiff said.
“Next week we will start doing it here, in the Vatican, and I have booked myself in. It must be done. There is a suicidal denial which I cannot explain, but today we have to get vaccinated.”
Pope Francis had part of one lung removed when he was a young man in his native Argentina, making him potentially vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The pope appointed Soccorsi as his personal physician in August 2015, delinking the position from the head of the Vatican's healthcare services.
Pope St. John Paul II linked the two positions but Pope Francis chose Soccorsi from outside the Vatican. The doctor traveled with the pope on his international trips.
Soccorsi had his training and education in medicine and surgery at Rome's La Sapienza University. He was an expert in hepatology, the digestive system and immunology.
He was also a consultant of the health and hygiene office of the Vatican City State and was part of the council of medical experts at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Others first in line for vaccination at Vatican City, the world's smallest independent state, will be health and public safety personnel, the elderly and staff in frequent contact with the public.
The city state expects to receive enough doses to inoculate all 450 residents and workers. Ultra-cold fridges have been brought in to store the doses developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.