Pope Francis Uses Wheelchair in Public for First Time Since Colon Surgery

During his recent public appearances, Pope Francis has apologized for being unable to stand and walk to greet participants.

Pope Francis enters the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall in a wheelchair on May 5, 2022.
Pope Francis enters the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall in a wheelchair on May 5, 2022. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA / EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis used a wheelchair during a public meeting on Thursday, the first time he has done so publicly since leaving the hospital after colon surgery in July 2021.

The 85-year-old Pope has had difficulty walking due to a painful torn ligament in his knee.

He was pushed in a wheelchair onto the stage of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on May 5, at the start of a meeting with participants in the plenary meeting of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).

During his recent public appearances, he has apologized for being unable to stand and walk to greet participants.

He also needed assistance when standing up from his chair after the May 4 general audience.

Pope Francis said in an interview this week that he would be undergoing a small medical procedure, “an intervention with infiltrations,” to provide some relief.

The 85-year-old Pope said in an interview published on May 3 that he would undergo the medical procedure.

“I have a torn ligament, I’ll do an intervention with infiltrations and we shall see,” Pope Francis said, according to comments published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“I have been like this for some time; I cannot walk. … It also brings a little pain, humiliation,” the Pope added.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told CNA that from what he understood about the procedure, “it’s basically an injection.”

Pope Francis has been suffering from an inflamed ligament, causing pain in his right knee and leg. He said on April 30 that his doctor had ordered him not to walk.

Therapeutic injections are sometimes used to relieve knee pain caused by ligament tears.

The Pope made the comments about his knee pain and treatment during a 40-minute interview with journalists from Italy’s most-read newspaper, in which he also spoke at length about the war in Ukraine and the Vatican’s relations with the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox leader Patriarch Kirill.

At the beginning of the interview, the Pope said: “Excuse me if I cannot get up to greet you, the doctors told me that I have to remain seated for the knee.”

During some recent public audiences and liturgies, Francis has taken a smaller role or spent more time seated due to this pain.

On the day before the reported surgery, the pope moved a scheduled meeting to his residence in the Santa Marta guesthouse, rather than the apostolic palace.

The Pope’s movements have been visibly more limited since February.

During an April 2-3 visit to Malta, extra measures were taken to ensure that the pope would not have to take stairs, due to his knee problem.

In the course of his hospital stay after colon surgery last year, Pope Francis greeted medical staff from a wheelchair.

This story was updated after posting.