O Pope Francisco, 84, reacted well after undergoing bowel surgery on Sunday, 4, at the Policlinico Gemelli Hospital in Rome, the Vatican reported late at night. The purpose of the procedure was to repair a stenosis (narrowing) in the large intestine. The Holy See said it was a scheduled surgery, but the matter had been kept under wraps until the pontiff arrived at the medical center.
Symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon is a form of inflammation, potentially painful, because of diverticula—small pouches that form in the wall of the digestive system—or hernias. It is more common in the elderly and, if there is a narrowing, it may require surgery.
Hospital stay must last at least five days. The Vatican did not say how long the procedure took, which required general anesthesia for the patient.
A team of ten professionals accompanied the operation, headed by Sergio Alfieri, director of Gemelli and specialist in digestive tract surgeries. The pope’s private doctor was in the room.
The announcement came as a surprise because Francis participated in the morning of the traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, but did not mention the surgery. For dozens of faithful who attended the celebration, the Argentine pontiff appeared in good physical shape and even announced that he intends to travel in September to Hungary and Slovakia. It will be the religious leader’s second trip outside Italy this year – in March he visited Iraq.
Last week, however, the pope even asked the faithful to say a special prayer for him. Francisco did not specify the reason, but it may have signaled concern with his health. “The pope needs your prayers,” he told the group in St. Peter’s Square. “I know you will do this.”
In recent days, the suspension, for the rest of July, of the pope’s audience with the public on Wednesdays, on the grounds of a summer break, had also been reported.
Francisco is generally in good health, but he had part of his lung removed when he was young and living in Argentina. You also suffer from sciatica, which affects your spine and legs. This requires physical therapy and sometimes canceling scheduled appearances.
Last week, he had a particularly demanding schedule, including a celebration in honor of St. Peter and St. Paul and a special ceremony for Lebanon. On the 28th, he participated in a long private meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
After a year and a half of the pandemic and now with the advance of vaccination around the world, the pope has been striving to expand the schedule of appointments and travels. “I’m not afraid of death,” Francisco told an Argentine journalist in an interview book released in 2019. He also said that, after losing part of his lung, he never felt tired or physically handicapped.
Francisco was elected to lead the Catholic Church in 2013, following the departure of Benedict XVI, the first to resign from his post in nearly 600 years. At the time, Bento claimed health weaknesses. Today he is 93 years old, lives in seclusion in a monastery in the Vatican and travels in a wheelchair. (WITH INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES)
a pontiffs hospital
The Gemelli Hospital in Rome is the medical center where popes tend to treat their health problems. Francisco will be interned on the 10th floor, in a wing reserved for pontiffs.
Pope John Paul II – who suffered several years of Parkinson’s and died in 2005 – spent so much time in this hospital that he used to jokingly refer to the Gemelli as another Vatican.
This week, the accesses to the hospital will be watched by security guards and police. Early yesterday afternoon, Francisco arrived at the scene by car, unescorted, accompanied by the driver and a nearby assistant.