ROME – As Pope Francis continues to recover slowly from a bout of severe bronchitis, a new twist on the papal health front has emerged in the form of revelations that the surgeon who twice operated on Francis, in 2021 and again in June, is now under investigation for allegedly falsifying hospital records.
The Italian daily La Stampa reported Dec. 14 that Sergio Alfieri of Rome’s Gemelli Hospital is now facing a probe by Roman prosecutors on the basis of charges that he signed forms in 2022 claiming he had performed surgeries when he was actually not present in the operating room.
Those allegedly false claims, which date to a period between July and December 2022, do not relate to any procedures Alfieri performed on Pope Francis.
In his lone comment on the charges so far, Alfieri has said that he is “very serene.”
Alfieri first operated on Francis in 2021, when he removed roughly 13 inches of the pontiff’s large intestine to relieve what the Vatican described as a severe inflammation and narrowing of the colon. Alfieri performed another surgery in June, on the pope’s abdomen, to treat a diverticulosis, or bulges in the colon wall, related to the original 2021 procedure.
During the pope’s recovery in June, Alfieri delivered briefings to the press at the Gemelli with updates on the pope’s condition, sometimes in the company of Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.
According to media reports, the new investigation of Alfieri began in February based on information provided to a unit of the Italian carabinieri, or military police, which deals with crimes against public health. The accusation is that on several occasions, Alfieri signed a hospital register taking responsibility for a surgery he didn’t actually perform.
On Oct. 10, according to the report, Alfieri signed off on a surgery that took place during a time when he was actually at Rome’s Hilton Hotel attending a meeting of the Italian Surgical Society. On Dec. 5, 2022, he allegedly signed for a surgery that happened while he was attending an administrative meeting elsewhere in the hospital.
So far, media reports have not suggested what Alfieri’s motive for allegedly falsifying the reports would have been.
A lawyer for Alfieri said that the surgeon, “whose personal and professional caliber is known to all, it is certain that he has always operated in full compliance with the rules.”
“When we are in a position to know the hypothesized charges and the elements on which they are based, we will, as always, have an attitude of full collaborative loyalty with the judicial authority in order to clarify every question as soon as possible,” said attorney Carlo Bonzano.
In a statement, the Gemelli Hospital, which has a room permanently reserved for the care of popes, expressed “maximum faith” in Alfieri’s “conduct and indisputable professional and human qualities.”