Alessandra Tarantino / AP
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis went to a Rome hospital Sunday for scheduled surgery on his large intestine, the Vatican said. The news came just three hours after Francis cheerfully greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square and told them that he will go to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The brief announcement 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, but said there would be an announcement when the surgery is complete.
The Vatican said the 84-year-old pope had been diagnosed with “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon,” a reference to a narrowing in the large intestine. The surgery was to be performed by Dr. 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, in hindsight, might have hinted at the planned surgery.
“I ask you to pray for the Pope, pray in a special way,” Francis had asked the faithful in the square on June 27. “The Pope needs your prayers,” he said, adding his thanks and saying “I know they will.” Do that. “
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 Saints Peter and Paul, and later in the week, presiding over a special prayer service for the Lebanon. On June 28, 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’s doctors have performed surgeries on papal patients before, including Pope John Paul II, who had a benign colon tumor removed in 1992.