Pope Francis underwent surgery on his abdomen on Wednesday to remove a hernia that stemmed from previous intestinal problems and emerged from the three-hour procedure with “no complications,” said doctors at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.
The Vatican cancelled all audiences until June 18, saying the pontiff, 86, would remain in the hospital for “several days” as he recovers from the surgery.
“He’s well and awake…He has already joked with me,” said Gemelli’s surgeon Sergio Alfieri, who performed the procedure and had also treated Francis previously.
“We didn’t find other pathologies,” he added, responding to reporters’ questions at the hospital.
The papal team decided recently that surgery was necessary to treat a hernia that presumably originated from earlier surgeries. The pope previously underwent another intestinal procedure in July 2021 at Gemelli, when he had part of his colon removed.
In late March, he was rushed to the same hospital as he started to feel pain in his chest and was diagnosed with bronchitis after spending three days under intensive care.
Francis was put under general anesthesia for a “laparotomy and abdominal wall plastic surgery with prosthesis” that treated a “recurrent, painful and worsening” constriction of the intestine, informed the doctors.
Alfieri specified that it normally took at least five days to a week for patients to recover from similar procedures. However, considering the pope’s age and the fact that he has undergone surgery four times, recovery could take longer, he added.
Wednesday’s surgery comes after a string of serious health issues that Francis has faced recently. The pontiff had a part of his lung removed when he was young and has been using a wheelchair for more than a year because of strained ligaments in his knee.
His frail health conditions have raised worry on whether he is fit to lead the Catholic Church in turbulent times. The pope himself signaled in past interviews that he would consider a possible resignation should his health worsen over time.
Last February, Francis referred to his predecessor Benedict XVI resigning in 2013, saying “he had the courage to do it because he did not feel up to continuing due to his health.” He added, however, that resignation was currently not in his agenda.
Benedict XVI, who died last December, became the first pope in six centuries to resign in 2013 after stepping down from his seat.
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