International News

Pope Francis Back in Vatican After Hernia Operation

Pope Francis prays before the Maria Salus Populi Romani icon in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major after being discharged from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital June 16, 2023. (Credit: Vatican Media.)

by Elise Ann Allen

ROME (Crux) — Pope Francis was discharged from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital early Friday morning, nine days after being admitted for surgery on an abdominal hernia, marking his second hospitalization in three months and his second surgery in two years.

Pope Francis left Gemelli just before 9:00 a.m. local time, after which he made a brief stop at the Roman Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where he prayed before the famous Maria Salus Populi Romani icon housed in the basilica’s Borghese chapel.

He also made a private visit to the sisters belonging to the Institute of Mary, the Most Holy Child, which is across the street from the left-hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, for their ongoing general chapter. Afterward, he paused to greet police and security personnel before reentering the Vatican gates.

According to a June 16 Vatican statement, Pope Francis will hold his Sunday Angelus address this weekend as planned, and will keep the various meetings and commitments on his schedule for next week, which include private audiences with both Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

However, his June 21 Wednesday public general audience has been canceled “to safeguard the post-operative recovery of the Holy Father,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis was admitted to Gemelli June 7 following his weekly general audience to undergo surgery for an abdominal hernia at the incision site of a previously undisclosed 1980 surgery on his gall bladder, which was causing him pain and discomfort.

There had been no photos of the pontiff for almost the entirety of his stay at the Gemelli this week, until the Vatican on Thursday published three images of the pope in his wheelchair visiting the hospital’s pediatric oncology and infant neurosurgery departments, which are located on the same floor as his private apartment.

All of Pope Francis’ activities had been canceled through June 18 as a precaution. He is expected to give his traditional Sunday Angelus address this weekend as usual and to resume his normal schedule of public and private audiences next week.

This hospitalization is the latest in a string of non-life-threatening but increased health-related maladies the pope has experienced in recent years and months.

Pope Francis underwent an invasive colon surgery at Gemelli Hospital in July 2021 for a condition known as “stenotic diverticulitis,” meaning a restriction of the colon with possible inflammation or infection of pouches inside the walls of the large intestine.

Last month on a routine Friday he canceled his morning meetings and appointments due to what the Vatican described as “a feverish state,” though no other information was provided.

He was hospitalized in late March with a respiratory infection which the Vatican later said was diagnosed as bronchitis, for which he received intravenous antibiotic treatment and was released after three days.

In addition to his colon surgery, Pope Francis had part of one lung removed after a severe bout of pneumonia as a young man. More recently, in 2019 he underwent ocular surgery at Rome’s Clinic of Pius XI to treat a cataract, and he’s also struggled with chronic sciatica pain.

For the past year he also experienced knee troubles that have largely confined him to the use of a cane or a wheelchair.

However, none of that has stopped the 86-year-old pontiff, who keeps a busy schedule and has several international trips planned for the fall, including visits to Portugal, Mongolia, and Marseille in France.