Pope Francis Doing Well After Intestinal Surgery

Published July 5th, 2021 - 03:16 GMT
Pope Francis turns after delivering the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis turns after delivering the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican on July 4, 2021. Andreas SOLARO / AFP
A diverticulum is pouch-like protrusion through the muscular wall of the intestine.

Pope Francis is doing well after intestinal surgery done under general aesthesia, the Vatican said on Sunday. 

In a statement late Sunday, Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni said the 84-year-old pontiff 'responded well' to the surgery, which the Vatican had said earlier had been scheduled.  He gave no further details about the surgery and did not say how long the pope would remain in hospital. 

Mr Bruni said Francis was suffering from 'symptomatic diverticular stenosis' of the colon, a condition that can cause recurrent abdominal pain, bloating and changes in bowel habits.

The operation took place on Sunday in Rome's Gemelli hospital, which is the institution where popes receive medical treatment. It is the first time the pope has been admitted to hospital since his election in 2013. 

Francis appeared to be in fine health several hours earlier when he addressed thousands of people in St Peter's Square for his Sunday blessing and announced a trip to Slovakia and Budapest for September.

A week earlier, Francis had used his same Sunday appearance to ask the public for special prayers for himself, which may have been related to the planned surgery.

'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 will do that.'

A diverticulum is pouch-like protrusion through the muscular wall of the intestine.

When diverticula become inflamed - a common condition, especially in older people - part of the intestine can sometimes narrow and surgery might be required, according to gastroenterologists. 

Such surgery can be performed under general anesthesia, possibly with a laparoscopic intervention. Sometimes a re-sectioning of the affected part of the intestine is needed.

Francis is in generally good health, but he did have part of one lung removed as a young man. He also suffers from sciatica, in which a nerve affects the lower back and leg, a painful condition that has forced him at times to skip scheduled appearances.

A 10th-floor papal suite is kept available at the hospital in case of need.

While Church law provides for a prelate to take over the administration of the Roman Catholic Church if a pope dies, there is no known provision for a delegation of powers if a pope is temporarily incapacitated, such while under anesthesia.

He had a particularly demanding set of appointments last week, including celebrating a Mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic feast day honouring saints Peter and Paul, and later in the week presiding at a special prayer service for Lebanon. 

On June 28, he had a long private audience at the Vatican with US secretary of state Antony Blinken. Throughout all those engagements, Francis appeared to be in good spirits.

The pope is sometimes short of breath because a part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina. Francis also suffers from sciatica, a condition that causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the legs.

He is sometimes seen walking with difficulty because of the pain and receives regular physical therapy for it. The condition forced him to miss several events at the beginning of this year.

Last year, a bad cold kept him from taking part in a week-long Lenten retreat with his senior aides south of Rome. In 2014, a year after he was elected pope, Francis was forced to cancel several engagements because of what was believed to be a stomach ailment.

Gemelli doctors have performed surgery before on popes, notably Pope John Paul II, who had what the Vatican said was a benign tumor in his colon removed in 1992. 

John Paul had several other surgeries at the hospital, including after being shot by a gunman in St Peter's Square in 1981.

John Paul also had several medical issues in his final years, including severe complications from Parkinson's disease, and had numerous stays at Gemelli. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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