Pope Francis promotes nurse credited with saving his life
Pope Francis arrives on a wheel chair for his weekly general Audience In St. Paul Hall at the Vatican. Evandro Inetti/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Pope Francis has promoted a nurse who he said saved his life last year to his personal health assistant, the Holy See announced in a short statement on Thursday.

In the summer of 2021, Massimiliano Strappetti, an employee of the Vatican's medical service and coordinator for nursing, convinced the then 84-year-old pope to undergo intestinal surgery for severe abdominal pain.

Strappetti had thus saved his life, Francis said at the time in an interview after the operation. What exactly his new role will entail wasn't specified in Thursday's statement.

The head of the Catholic Church already has a personal physician as well as a team of medical professionals who look after the pontiff around the clock, especially during trips abroad.

Francis did not immediately bounce back from the operation, which involved general anaesthesia. For months, he has also been suffering from knee problems, often forcing him to use a wheelchair.

On his return flight from a trip to Canada last week, the pope said that he wasn't planning to resign at the moment, but didn't rule out such a move if his health required it.