Vatican City – Pope Francis was in good condition, alert and breathing on his own on Monday after undergoing successful surgery this weekend to have part of his lower intestine removed, the Vatican said. In a statement released on Monday, the Holy See’s press office said Francis, 84, would likely remain hospitalized for about a week after his Sunday night operation.
He was placed under general anesthesia for an approximately three-hour hemicolectomy – the surgical removal of part of the small intestine – which was necessitated by a narrowing of the intestine.
“His Holiness Pope Francis is in good condition, alert and breathing spontaneously,” the Holy See press office said on Monday.
The Pope was admitted Sunday for the treatment of diverticular stenosis, abnormal constriction or narrowing of the small intestine. The sigmoid part of the large intestine extends from the end of the colon descending to the rectum. Gastroenterologists say the sigmoid segment is a common location for stenosis.
The main surgeon was Dr Sergio Alfieri, director of digestive surgery at the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome, a Catholic hospital.
Among those in the operating room was the Pope’s official doctor, whom Francis contacted earlier this year. The Pope’s former doctor had contracted COVID-19 and died in Gemelli while hospitalized for cancer treatment.
It was a remarkable end to a day that began publicly for Francis when, during his traditional Sunday appearance to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, he joyfully announced that he would be visiting Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The Pope made no mention of his impending surgery, but headed shortly after he appeared at the window at the hospital. At the end of his public address from a window of the Apostolic Palace, Francis said to the crowd, “And please don’t forget to pray for me. Then he added casually, almost melancholy: “Thank you, ciao.”
Hours after his admission to hospital, apparently with little escort and fanfare, the Vatican revealed Francis’ diagnosis. A week earlier, Francis had used his same Sunday appearance to ask the audience for special prayers for himself, which may have been related to the planned operation.
“I ask you to pray for the Pope, pray in a special way”, Francis had asked the faithful in the square on June 27. “The Pope needs your prayers,” he said, adding his thanks and saying “I know you’re going to do this.”
Francis is generally in good health, but had part of a lung removed when he was young. He also suffers from sciatica, in which a nerve affects his lower back and leg, a painful condition that sometimes caused him to skip scheduled appearances.
The Pope has had a series of particularly demanding appointments over the past week, including the celebration of a mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic holiday in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, and later in the week the presidency of a special prayer service for Lebanon. On June 28, he also had a long private audience at the Vatican with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Throughout these engagements, François seemed to be in a good mood.
Wishes for recovery began to arrive immediately for Francis. Italian President Sergio Mattarella, upon his arrival in Paris for a state visit to France, offered an “affectionate thought” on behalf of all Italians. Mattarella said he wanted “a good recovery and even a faster recovery” for the Pope.
Doctors at Gemelli have previously operated on popes, including Pope John Paul II, who had what the Vatican called a benign colon tumor removed in 1992. John Paul underwent several other surgeries in the area. hospital, especially after being shot dead by an armed man in Place Saint-Pierre in 1981.
John Paul has also had several medical issues in his later years, including severe complications from Parkinson’s disease, and has spent many stays at Gemelli. At one point, the future Saint John Paul II dubbed the hospital “the third Vatican”, after Vatican City and the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome.