WASHINGTON — Reverend Billy Graham was hospitalized Wednesday for possible pneumonia, the facility treating the 93-year-old internationally renowned evangelist said.
“He was admitted this afternoon,” a spokeswoman for Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina told AFP.
The hospital said in a statement that he was undergoing “evaluation and treatment of his lungs,” and that he was in stable condition and was “alert, smiling and waving at hospital staff” when he was admitted.
“The pulmonologist treating Mr Graham, Mark Hellreich, MD, said that Mr Graham is being tested for possible pneumonia,” according to the hospital.
“While no date has been set for discharge, Mr Graham is looking forward to returning home to spend the upcoming Christmas holidays with his family,” it added.
The reverend, a Southern Baptist preacher who rose to become spiritual advisor to millions of American television viewers and several US presidents, was previously hospitalized for successful treatment of pneumonia last May.
Graham was a pioneer of “televangelism” to convert souls to Christianity as the new medium of television got off the ground in the 1950s.
At the beginning of that decade he founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in Minneapolis. His ministry led him to preach the gospel around the world, and he gained in prominence.
In his lifetime he is believed to have preached to more than two billion people, including on radio and television.
Over the course of his long career, he was consulted by presidents as far back as Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
A comforting presence during times of national crisis, Graham led a national prayer service for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. He also presided at graveside services for president Lyndon Johnson in 1973 and spoke at the funeral of president Richard Nixon in 1994.
The one-time backwoods Southern minister who eventually became the world’s foremost Christian evangelist, spreading a message of spiritual redemption at tent and stadium revival meetings, has also been close to president George W. Bush, who said a private meeting with Graham in 1985 helped him quit drinking.
Even in his later years, Graham has remained an immensely popular figure; his last evangelical crusade in Queens, New York, in June 2005 drew a quarter-million people.
Graham is the author of 27 books, most of which have been translated into several languages. His latest, “Nearing Home: Life Faith, and Finishing Well,” released in October, focuses on life’s transitions.
“I never thought I would live to be this old,” Graham wrote in the book’s opening line.