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Pope’s abdominal surgery ‘went well,’ recovering in hospital, Vatican says

Pope Francis is recovering after a three-hour operation to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall, problems that developed following previous surgeries.

“The night went well,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement early Thursday, adding further updates would be released later.

Francis, 86, underwent a three-hour operation in a Rome hospital on Wednesday, June 7 to repair a hernia, which doctors said was successful enough that he should have no limitations on his travels and other activities after he recovers.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis blesses the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peters Square at The Vatican, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

In July 2021 he had part of his colon removed in an operation aimed at addressing a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis. He said earlier this year that the condition had returned and was affecting his weight.

On Tuesday, the Roman Catholic leader went for a check-up at the hospital and was admitted Wednesday following his general audience.

POPE FRANCIS UNDERGOING ABDOMINAL SURGERY IN ROME TO DEAL WITH INTESTINAL ISSUE

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, said in a press conference that the Pope woke up in good spirits, and was even joking after.

“When will we do the third one?” Alfieri said, quoting the Pope.

The surgeon had previously removed part of Francis’ colon in 2021

During the operation, doctors removed adhesions, or internal scarring, on the intestine that had caused a partial blockage. Alfieri revealed that in addition to the 2021 colon surgery, Francis had undergone previous abdominal surgeries sometime before 2013 in Argentina, which had also caused scarring.

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After that surgery in 2021, the Argentine pope lamented that he hadn’t responded well to the general anesthetic. That reaction in part explained his refusal to have surgery to repair strained knee ligaments that have forced him to use a wheelchair and walker for over a year.

However, Alfieri said Francis had no clinically adverse reactions to the anesthesia in 2021 or Wednesday.

“Clearly no one likes to be operated on and put to sleep because the moment we’re put under, we lose consciousness,” he said. “But there was no physiological problem two years ago or today.”

Pope Francis greeting

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Rome's Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic

An external view of Rome’s Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic, Thursday, June 8, 2023, where Pope Francis underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a hernia in his abdominal wall, the latest malady to befall the 86-year-old pontiff who had part of his colon removed two years ago. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Alfieri cautioned that while strong, the pope was elderly and recently had bronchitis so “we will take all necessary precautions” regarding the timing of the hospital stay. 

The Vatican said all the pope’s private and general audiences had been canceled until June 18 as a precautionary measure. 

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The pope has a busy summer schedule in the coming months with two trips to Portugal and to Mongolia. He is expected to attend the World Youth Day and visit the Shrine of Fatima in Aug. 2-6, and to Mongolia Aug. 31-Sept. 4, one of the more remote places he has traveled to.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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