Pope Francis doing well after intestinal surgery

It is the pontiff's first known hospital treatment since he was elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church in 2013

Pope Francis delivers the angelus hours before being admitted to Rome's Gemelli hospital for colon surgery, on July 4, 2021. Vatican Media
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Pope Francis is doing well after undergoing intestinal surgery, the Vatican said.

The 84-year-old pontiff was admitted to hospital for the first time since he was elected to the papacy in 2013.

Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pontiff “responded well” to the surgery, which was done under general anaesthesia and which the Vatican had earlier said had been scheduled and not prompted by an emergency.

He gave no further details about the surgery or how long it lasted and did not say how long the Pope would remain in Rome's Gemelli hospital.

The Pope entered the hospital early on Sunday afternoon.

The Vatican indicated later that the surgery would be the same day.

The pontiff underwent surgery for symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon, a condition where saclike pouches protrude from the muscular layer of the colon, leading it to become narrow. The operation was carried out by a 10-person medical team.

In addition to causing pain, the condition can lead to bloating, inflammation, and difficulty in bowel movement. It tends to affect older people more.

The Pope 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 in September.

A week earlier, Pope Francis used his Sunday appearance to ask the public to pray for him, which might have been a hint of the surgery.

“I ask you to pray for the pope, pray in a special way,” he asked the faithful in St Peter's Square on June 27. “The pope needs your prayers. I know you will do that.”

The Catholic-run Gemelli hospital and medical school in the northern part of Rome traditionally treats popes and a part of its 10th floor is permanently reserved for them.

As he does every year in July, the Pope already had suspended all of his general and private audiences for the month. The surgery appeared to be timed to coincide with a period in which he has only one public commitment – his Sunday blessing in St Peter's Square.

Pope Francis 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.

He also suffers from sciatica, which causes pain that radiates from the lower back along the sciatic nerve to the legs.

The condition, for which he receives regular physiotherapy, forced him to miss several events at the beginning of this year and has led him on occasions to walk with difficulty.

Last year, a bad cold kept him from taking part in a week-long Lenten retreat with senior aides south of Rome.

In 2014, a year after he was elected pope, the pontiff was forced to cancel several engagements because of what was believed to be a stomach ailment.

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 as while under anaesthesia.

The Pope had a particularly demanding set of appointments last week, including a Mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic feast day honouring Saints Peter and Paul.

Later in the week he presided 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 of those engagements, Pope Francis appeared to be in good spirits.

Get-well wishes began arriving immediately.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as soon as he landed in Paris for a state visit in France, offered an “affectionate thought” on behalf of all Italians.

Mr Mattarella said he was wishing for “a good convalescence and even a speedier recovery” for the Pope.

Updated: July 05, 2021, 2:38 PM