By Inés San Martín
ROME (Crux) — Pope Francis is set to remain in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital “for a few more days”, following surgery last Sunday for a colon condition, instead of returning to the Vatican today or tomorrow as was originally planned.
“In order to optimize the medical and rehabilitation therapy, the Holy Father will remain in hospital for a few more days,” said a statement released by the Holy See press office. This means that he will stay longer than originally expected after a scheduled intestinal surgery that took place July 4.
Sunday was a “quiet day” for Pope Francis, who led the faithful in praying the Angelus, greeted young patients of the nearby Oncology ward, the patients of the 10th floor where he’s staying and the medical and nursing staff.
Like virtually every Argentine and Italian around the world, the pontiff also “shared his joy” at the victory of both national soccer teams which won their respective continental tournaments on Saturday and Sunday, the former defeating Brazil for the Latin American championship and the latter England to claim the European crown.
Pope Francis “dwelt on the meaning of sport and its values, and on the sporting ability of being able to accept any result, even defeat: ‘only in this way, in the face of life’s difficulties, can one always put oneself on the line, fighting without giving up, with hope and trust’,” the statement quoted the pontiff as saying.
On Monday, July 5, spokesman Matteo Bruni had said that “baring complications” Pope Francis was expected to stay in the hospital for seven days, which meant that his release was programmed for early this week.
Beyond a fever on Wednesday night, the Holy See had given no indication thus far of any setbacks in the Holy Father’s recovery time. On the contrary, daily updates spoke of him continuing to eat and move around unassisted and had even sent his greetings to young cancer patients at Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic hospital.
Pope Francis, 84, had a portion of his colon removed because of what the Vatican defined as a “severe” narrowing of the large intestine.
On Sunday, he led hundreds of faithful, including doctors and patients, who had gathered underneath the 10th-floor balcony of the Gemelli Hospital, which has a special suite reserved for pontiff’s. He was flanked by young patients, all of whom were wearing face masks.
Reflecting on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Mark, in which Jesus sent out his disciples to anoint the sick with oil and heal them, Pope Francis said that the oil not only represents the comfort given through the sacramental anointing of the sick, but also symbolizes “the closeness, the care, the tenderness of those who take care of the sick person.”
“It is like a caress that makes you feel better, soothes your pain and cheers you up. All of us, everyone, sooner or later, we all need this ‘anointing’ of closeness and tenderness, and we can all give it to someone else, with a visit, a phone call, a hand outstretched to someone who needs help,” he said.
Pope Francis said that his time in the hospital served as a reminder of “how important good health care is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit [that] must not be lost.”
Later in the day, Vatican News released a series of images portraying the Holy Father, in a wheelchair, greeting several of sick people. Though Pope Francis is reportedly walking unassisted, it’s the protocol for patients to use a wheelchair to move within the hospital, unless they’re specifically doing an exercise with the assistance of a therapist or doctor.