Pope Francis’ personal doctor has died from COVID-19 complications, according to a report.
Fabrizio Soccorsi, 78, was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for a previous health issue on Dec. 26, the Catholic News Agency reported.
The cause of his death, however, was coronavirus complications, the outlet reported, citing the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
It’s unclear when he last had direct contact with the pontifex.
The pope had announced on Saturday that he planned to get a COVID-19 shot next week as part of a vaccination program at the Vatican.
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine,” the Pope said in an interview with TV station Canale 5. “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.”
Pope Francis named Soccorsi his personal physician in August 2015, after not renewing the term of papal doctor Patrizio Polisca, who was also head of the Vatican’s healthcare services.
Since the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II, the two positions had been tied together, but Pope Francis diverged from this custom by choosing Soccorsi, a doctor from outside the Vatican.
As Francis’ personal physician, Soccorsi traveled with the pope on his international trips. During his visit to Fatima, Portugal in May 2017, Pope Francis laid two bunches of white roses before the statue of the Virgin Mary for Soccorsi’s daughter, who was critically ill, and died the following month.
Soccorsi trained in medicine and surgery at Rome’s La Sapienza University. His career included both medical practice and teaching, especially in the areas of hepatology, the digestive system, and immunology.
The doctor also did consulting for 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.