Pope Francis undergoes intestinal surgery, no complications, Vatican says

ROME – Pope Francis underwent intestinal surgery on Wednesday and completed the three-hour procedure without complications, the Vatican said, although the episode raised new concerns about the 86-year-old pontiff’s health.

Francis will remain in the hospital for at least five to seven days, his doctor said. The Vatican canceled their meetings until June 18, while promoting its planned trip to Portugal in August

The pope should be able to maintain his already announced travel schedule in the coming weeks and months, as long as he doesn’t overexert himself, his surgeon, Sergio Alfieri, said at a post-surgery news conference.

Alfieri said this had not been an emergency intervention, but that the pope had made the decision to proceed after experiencing recurring pain.

The Pope’s intestinal problems, the surgeon said, appeared to be related to adhesions and internal scarring, possibly from previous surgeries dating back to his days in Argentina, before he became pope.

After the obstructions were addressed, a mesh-like prosthesis was inserted into the pope’s bowels, Alfieri said. The procedure was performed under general anesthesia, which produced no adverse effects, the surgeon said.

Alfieri explained that upon waking up from his second intestinal surgery in two years, the pontiff joked, “When is the third surgery?”

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In July 2021, Francis had 13 inches of his colon removed to address a stenosis, or narrowing, of his large intestine. He has suggested that concerns about going under general anesthesia again influenced his decision to avoid knee surgery to repair strained ligaments that have restricted his mobility.

Despite health problems, Francis, one of the oldest pontiffs in history, has maintained an energetic pace for most of his decade as pope.

On Wednesday morning before the surgery, he took part in his usual general audience at the Vatican and then greeted the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, blessing a child with one hand on his head and driving around in the “popemobile” uncovered in the light. sunlight

Francis was taken to Rome’s largest hospital, Gemelli, in the early afternoon.

This is his second hospitalization this year. He was taken to Gemelli in March with bronchitis.

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Then, while he was in hospital for just a few days, it came before Holy Week and the Easter period, raising concerns. The Vatican tried to reassure the public with daily updates: showing the pope at work, eating pizza, baptizing babies and handing out chocolate eggs in the pediatric oncology ward.

Francis, whose knee pain requires him to use a wheelchair and cane, has previously acknowledged that he may have to slow down, or even consider retirement at some point.

“I don’t think I can continue with the same pace of travel as before,” he said after a trip to Canada last year. “I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to save [my energies up] a little to be able to serve the church”.

He has said he would be willing to step down if his health makes it impossible for him to lead the church.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign in 600 years.

Francis said it was a “normal option” to think about retirement, but that he wasn’t there yet.

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In addition to a visit to Portugal for World Youth Day in the first week of August, the Vatican has announced a planned trip to Mongolia later this month.

But church officials are not blasphemed about his health.

“It’s no joke, huh?” a Vatican official said Wednesday after seeking surgery. “Especially because he is an old person. … I trust the people in whose hands it is, but it is not a walk in the park.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.

Faiola reported from Lisbon.

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