VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis “reacted well” to a bowel surgery scheduled Sunday night at a hospital in Rome, the Vatican announced, without giving many details about the pontiff’s state of health.
In a late-night statement, Matteo Bruni, a spokesman for the Holy See, said the 84-year-old pope was given general anesthesia during surgery, which was necessary due to a stenosis, or narrowing, of the sigmoid portion of the large intestine. .
The statement, issued shortly before midnight, lacked medical details.
Bruni did not disclose how long the operation took. Nor did he indicate whether the pope had already regained consciousness after anesthesia or how long he is expected to remain at the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome. Francis was expected to convalesce in a special suite on the 10th floor, which is reserved for pontiffs.
“The Holy Father, who was admitted to the A. Gemelli Polyclinic in the afternoon, underwent scheduled surgery in the afternoon for a diverticular stenosis of the sigmoid portion” of the colon, Bruni reported in the brief statement. “The Holy Father reacted well to the surgery performed under general anesthesia,” said the spokesman, who stressed that it was a surgical team of four people and an anesthesia team of four other members.
Among those present in the operating room was the pope’s official physician, who began seeing Francis this year. The pontiff’s former doctor caught COVID-19 and passed away at the Gemelli while hospitalized for cancer treatment.
It was a remarkable end to a day that began publicly for Francis when, in his traditional Sunday presentation to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, he announced that he would visit Hungary and Slovakia in September. The pontiff did not mention his surgery, but shortly after he left for Gemelli, a Catholic hospital.
After being admitted, the Vatican revealed that the pope had been diagnosed with narrowing of the large intestine. The main surgeon was Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of the clinic’s digestive system surgery department.
A week earlier, Francisco took advantage of the same traditional presentation every Sunday to ask those gathered for a special prayer for himself, which may have been an indication of the scheduled surgery.
“I ask you to pray for the pope, pray in a special way,” Francis told the faithful in the square on June 27. “The pope needs your prayers,” he said, and then thanked them and said: “I know they will.”
A diverticulum is an abnormal pouch-shaped cavity that is created in the muscle tissue of the intestine.
Once diverticula become inflamed – a relatively common situation, especially in older people – part of the intestine can narrow at times, which may require surgery, according to gastroenterologists. This procedure can be performed under general anesthesia, possibly through a laparoscopic procedure. Sometimes a bowel resection is required.
Francisco is in good general health, but part of one lung was removed when he was young. He also suffers from sciatica and occasionally has painful episodes of the condition, which involves a nerve that affects the lower back and leg. Sometimes that has forced you to skip events that you had scheduled.
The pope had a particularly demanding series of appointments last week, including holding a mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic holiday honoring Saints Peter and Paul, and subsequently presiding over a special ceremony of prayer for Lebanon. On June 28, he held a lengthy private audience at the Vatican with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Throughout all these engagements, Francisco was seen to be in a good mood.
The good wishes came immediately. As soon as he landed in Paris for a state visit, Italian President Sergio Mattarella offered an “affectionate reflection” on behalf of all Italians. Mattarella said he wished the pope “a good convalescence and a speedy recovery.”
It is not the first time that Gemelli doctors operate on potatoes, especially John Paul II, who had what the Vatican said was a benign colon tumor removed in 1992. The Polish-born pope had several other procedures at the hospital, including one after he was shot by a gunman in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.
John Paul II also suffered from various ailments in his later years, including severe complications from Parkinson’s disease, for which he entered the Gemelli on several occasions.