ROME – Three days after Pope Francis underwent surgery for an abdominal hernia, the Vatican announced that he would skip his Sunday Angelus address on medical advice, with the pontiff’s doctors saying he must avoid excess movement that could strain his incision point.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that “on the advice of medical staff and of his personal health assistant, and as can be deduced from the normal post-operative recovery times in operations of this kind, Pope Francis tomorrow will recite the Angelus prayer in private.”
Though he will not appear on the balcony of his room at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, he will unite spiritually “with affection and gratitude to the faithful who want to accompany him, wherever they are.”
Doctor Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who operated on the pope this week, and who also performed his colon surgery two years ago, told journalists in a June 10 briefing at Rome’s Gemelli hospital that they had suggested to the pope that he skip his traditional public Sunday Angelus address this weekend to allow him to property recover.
“To get up from the bed, sit down, etc., puts pressure on the abdomen,” Alfieri said, saying the problem is that “if, in coming days, he doesn’t pay careful attention to the abdominal incision, the wound reopens and he has to return to the operating room, which neither he nor I want.”
“We asked this sacrifice, because know it’s a sacrifice for him not to say the Angelus…and he with his wisdom accepted it,” Alfieri said.
Alfieri said that while the typical recovery time for the type of surgery Pope Francis had lasts somewhere between 5-7 days, the medical team at Gemelli has asked the pontiff to stay at least another week to ensure he is fully healed and ready to resume his busy schedule.
“We haven’t impeded the pope from anything,” he said, saying the medical staff make their suggestions and it is up to the pope to decide whether to comply.
“Can he return to work three days after a surgical intervention? In front of millions of people? We must respect the dignity of the person,” he said, but insisted that the pope is “doing well” and that if he feels fine next week and decides to leave the hospital early, he can, but their advice is for him to stay.
“We want him to return to Santa Marta healthy and well,” Alfieri said, noting that in the pope’s case, “it’s not that he when he returns home he sits in front of the TV … He serves millions, (and) has an exertive job.”
Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital Wednesday afternoon following his weekly general audience, after a brief visit to the facility for testing the day before, to undergo surgery for an abdominal hernia at the incision site of a previous surgery, which was causing him pain and discomfort.
According to Bruni’s statement Saturday, all IV drips for the pontiff have been suspended, and as of Saturday he began a semi-liquid diet.
Post-op blood tests and chest X-rays “are good” and the pope continues to maintain “a careful convalescence which aims at reducing the strain on the abdominal wall, to allow the implanted prosthetic mesh” that closed the hernia and his abdominal wall to “heal optimally.”
Alfiari said Pope Francis is not in much pain, but is taking mild painkillers to allow him to breathe normally, insisting that “everything is progressing well, very well as of today.”
He insisted that Pope Francis, despite being 86, “has the head of a 70-year-old” and is very clear minded.
After Tuesday’s CAT-scan revealed the hernia and it was decided the operation was needed, the pope, he said, immediately began to think of his summer commitments, including international travel plans in August, and decided “better sooner than later.”
Asked about rumors that the pope had a heart condition or some sort of cardiac problem in the wake of his hospital stay earlier this year for bronchitis, Alfieri stressed that “Pope Francis doesn’t have any cardiac problems right now, and he never had a cardiac problem in the past.”
He said the pontiff, despite his multiple surgeries, is in relatively good health for his age, and despite his ongoing knee troubles, is undergoing “almost no therapy.”