Pope Francis rested well overnight and was "progressively improving" on Thursday after being hospitalized with a respiratory infection, the Vatican said.

The 86-year-old Pope, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, ate breakfast, read the newspapers and was working from his hospital room at Rome's Gemelli hospital, according to a statement from spokesperson Matteo Bruni.

"Before lunch he went to the little chapel in the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer and received the eucharist," the statement said.

Francis was hospitalized Wednesday after experiencing difficulty breathing in recent days. Bruni had said Wednesday it was expected he would stay in hospital for several days of treatment, and that he did not have COVID-19.

Francis posted on Twitter that he was "touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer."

Francis appeared in relatively good form during his regularly scheduled general audience earlier Wednesday, though he grimaced strongly while getting in and out of the "popemobile."

The hospitalization was the first since Francis spent 10 days at Rome's Gemelli hospital in July 2021 to have 33 centimetres of his colon removed. He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a Jan. 24 interview with The Associated Press, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had "returned."

WATCH | Pope Francis treated in hospital for respiratory infection: 

Pope Francis hospitalized with pulmonary infection

The Vatican says Pope Francis will spend multiple days in hospital to receive treatment for a pulmonary infection. His stay comes after he was experiencing trouble breathing.

Easter observances nearing

The Pope's audiences have been cancelled through Friday.

He is scheduled to celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend, and it wasn't clear how his medical condition would affect the Vatican's Holy Week observances, which include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and finally Easter Sunday on April 9.

Francis got through the worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic without at least any public word of ever testing positive.

A stone statue is shown in the foreground in front of a large, low-rise building.
A view shows a statue of late Pope John Paul II at the Gemelli hospital on Thursday in Rome, where Pope Francis is recuperating. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Francis has used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture. He has said the injury was healing and been walking more with a cane of late.

Francis also has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he didn't respond well to general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

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