Pope Francis has been admitted to a hospital in Rome for scheduled surgery on his large intestine, the Vatican said. The news came just three hours after the Pope cheerfully greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square and told them that he would visit Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The brief statement from the Holy See’s press office did not say exactly when the surgery would be performed at the Gemelli Polyclinic, a Catholic university hospital, only that there would be a medical update when the surgery was completed. However, sources indicated that the surgery would take place later on Sunday.
It is the Pope’s first known hospital treatment since he was elected papacy in 2013.
The Vatican said the 84-year-old pontiff had been diagnosed with “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon,” also described as a narrowing in the large intestine. The surgery was to be performed by Professor Sergio Alfieri, director of Gemelli’s digestive surgery department.
A week earlier, Francis had used his same Sunday apparition to ask the public to pray especially for him, which could have been in reference to the planned surgery.
“I ask you to pray for the Pope, pray in a special way. The Pope needs your prayers ”, Francis had said, thanking the faithful and adding:“ I know they will ”.
Francis is in good general health, but part of one lung was removed when he was young. He also suffers from sciatica, occasionally having painful episodes of the condition in which a nerve affects his lower back and leg, forcing him on occasion to skip scheduled appearances.
The pope had a particularly demanding series of appointments last week, including holding a mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic holiday honoring Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and presiding later in the week at a special prayer service for Lebanon. . On Monday, he also had a lengthy private audience at the Vatican with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Throughout all those engagements, Francis seemed to be in a good mood.
Gemelli doctors have performed surgeries on papal patients before, including Pope John Paul II, who had a benign tumor removed from his colon in 1992.