ROME – After receiving a letter from staff who work with sick children receiving treatment at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where he’s recovering from abdominal surgery, Pope Francis thanked medical personnel working with the kids for their service amid suffering.

In a letter dated June 10 and addressed to the personnel of the Child Neuropsychiatry and Pediatric Neurological wards of the Gemelli hospital, the pope said he received their letter the day before, and “I thank you from the heart.”

“Every day, being in contact with sick little ones, who, as you have written, often ‘you see fly away,’ you experience the trauma that suffering causes in people’s lives which unfortunately also affects the dearest loved ones,” he said.

Francis called the staff “witnesses of life, as well as death,” saying they are thus “called to give comfort and relief in the last moments, accompanying these little ‘angels’ to the threshold of their encounter with the Lord.”

“Because of your dedication, you are among the ‘Saints next door.’ You are images of the ‘field hospital’ Church, which continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who is close and heals suffering people of all kinds and who bends over to wash the feet of his disciples,” he said.

He closed his letter urging the medical staff to always be “Good Samaritans who take care of the life and pain of others. And continue to cultivate the culture of closeness and tenderness.”

Pope Francis was admitted to Gemelli Hospital June 7 following his weekly general audience to undergo surgery on an abdominal hernia at the incision point of a previous surgery, which was causing him progressive pain and discomfort.

Doctors have provided daily medical bulletins in which they report that the pontiff is recovering well and maintaining a semi-liquid diet and has resumed some work activities.

However, to prevent unnecessary strain on his abdomen, the pope skipped his weekly Sunday Angelus address, and he has been advised by doctors to stay through the entire week to allow “optimal” recovery before heading back to the Vatican and resuming his busy schedule.

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In a statement Sunday afternoon, the Vatican reported that Pope Francis’s post-op recovery “is regular” and that he is stable with no fever.

Francis underwent respiratory therapy Sunday morning and continued to move around inside his room, the Vatican said, saying the pontiff in the course of the morning “followed the Holy Mass on live television and received the Eucharist.”

“He then went to the little chapel of the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer for the recitation of the Angelus,” the Vatican said, adding that the pope then lunched with the medical personnel assisting him in his recovery.

On Sunday afternoon, the Vatican said, Pope Francis “was able to take a few steps” and spent his time working, “interspersed with rest and prayer.”

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