Pope Francis spent a “day of rest” on Thursday and his recovery was “progressing well,” the Vatican said Thursday evening, a day after he underwent abdominal surgery.
Francis, who is 86, was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital following medical tests this week. He has suffered from various medical issues over the past few years. The Vatican said that respiratory and other important parameters were “stable.”
He was well enough to receive communion in the afternoon in his room in a 10th-floor suite reserved for popes at the Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital in Rome.
Surgeons operated on what is known as an incisional hernia, typically the consequence of previous operations, that had been causing painful intestinal blockages that were occurring with greater frequency.
The three-hour operation to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall had “no consequences,” the Vatican said after the procedure.
The operation had raised fresh concerns about the pope’s health. He was recently treated for bronchitis that required hospitalization in late March, and he had part of his colon removed in major surgery in 2021. He now often uses a cane or a wheelchair because of knee problems and sciatica.
The Pope's Medical History
Sergio Alfieri, the director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli who carried out the surgeries on Francis this week and two years ago, told reporters Wednesday that the pontiff also underwent abdominal procedures before becoming pope in 2013.
The immediate first phase of recovery should take about a week, according to Prof. Giampiero Campanelli, director of day and week surgery at the Galeazzi-Sant’Ambrogio hospital in Milan, and editor in chief of the medical journal Hernia.
During that time, the pope will be closely monitored to ensure that the drainage tubes placed near the surgical incision to remove fluids and prevent them from accumulating in the body were working efficiently, Professor Campanelli said.
The Healing Process
The pope will be encouraged to begin walking, to avoid thrombosis, the professor added, noting that doctors would look to ensure that his respiratory system was back on track as incisions to the abdomen can complicate breathing.
“It’s important that the patient get on his feet as soon as possible,” Professor Campanelli said. “If all goes well, within a week the patient will have no consequences.”
The Vatican has canceled all of Francis’ public and private audiences until June 18 as a precautionary measure.
Once out of the hospital, the pope will have to avoid lifting heavy objects and exerting himself, and keep coughing to a minimum, Professor Campanelli said.
A Get-Well Card from The Bambino Gesù
Prayers and well wishes for a quick recovery continued to arrive. Young patients of the Bambino Gesù hospital, which is owned by the Holy See, drew a get-well card on Wednesday: “Don’t be afraid, we are with you,” it read.
The Vatican said that among the many messages of closeness the pope had received, he had been moved by a get-well card sent by the family of a newborn the pope had baptized on March 31 during a visit to the hospital’s pediatric oncology and infant neurosurgery ward.
“The pope wanted to personally thank the mother with a brief phone call,” the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said in the statement.