ROME – The Vatican confirmed late on Sunday that Pope Francis “reacted well” to a pre-planned intestinal surgery in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.
“The Holy Father reacted well to the intervention carried out under a general anesthesia by Professor Sergio Alfieri,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a short statement released just after midnight local.
The Holy See press office gave nor further information on the pope’s health, though it did name the eight doctors who were involved in the surgery.
Earlier in the day, Bruni had informed journalists that the pope had been hospitalized to undergo a pre-scheduled surgery to address a stenosis, or narrowing, of the sigmoid portion of the large intestine.
Three hours before the original statement, the Argentine pontiff had addressed hundreds of faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the weekly Angelus prayer.
There are several reports in the local media of the surgery having taken several hours, but the Vatican has thus far provided no details to this regard. Italian news agency ANSA has reported that the pope is likely to stay in the hospital for at least five days.
Due to the summer break, Francis has already suspended his weekly Wednesday audience, and no other official appointments have been made public. Therefore, the pope is not scheduled to engage in any public activity until next Sunday, when he’s once again expected to lead the faithful in the Angelus prayer.
The Gemelli is the biggest hospital in Rome, and Francis was given the same suite on the tenth floor used by Pope John Paul II, who underwent surgery in the health center several times, including after the assassination attempt in 1091 and after the removal of a tumor in the colon in 1992.
After the surgery was announced, many on social media recalled that last Sunday, on the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Francis had issued a request for prayers: “I ask you to pray for the pope, pray in a special way. The pope needs your prayers.”
Francis has not had any serious health problems since he became pope on March 13, 2013, except for the sciatica that has affected him since he was serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The sciatica has caused him so much pain that, on doctor’s advice, he cancelled his participation in the liturgical celebrations on New Year’s Eve, and into the first days of 2021, before returning to normal activity on Jan. 23. To help cope with the sciatica, he was put on a diet to lose weight.
Two years ago, he was successfully operated of cataracts in both eyes, but no major appointments were canceled as a result.
Back in 1957, when he was a young seminary student, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio had the top lobe of his right lung removed, but he’s suffered no setbacks since, as he told Argentine journalist Nelson Castro in an interview for a book released earlier this year on the health of popes.
Get-well wishes began arriving immediately after the Vatican announced the pope would be undergoing surgery. One of the first ones to issue a statement was Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who offered an “affectionate thought” on behalf of all Italians. Mattarella said he was wishing for “a good convalescence and an even speedier recovery” for the pope.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma