Pope Francis Will Spend Week Recovering in the Hospital After Intestinal Surgery

The surgery lasted about three hours, according to the Vatican.

A statue of Pope St. John Paul II is located at the entrance of Gemelli hospital, where Pope Francis just underwent surgery. John Paul II was cared for here after the 1981 assassination attempt on his life.
A statue of Pope St. John Paul II is located at the entrance of Gemelli hospital, where Pope Francis just underwent surgery. John Paul II was cared for here after the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. (photo: Sergio D’Afflitto, CC BY-SA 3.0 IT, via Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis is expected to spend the next week in the hospital as he recovers from intestinal surgery, according to the Vatican.

“His Holiness Pope Francis is in good general condition, alert and breathing spontaneously,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists on July 5.

The Pope underwent a surgery at Rome’s Gemelli hospital on July 4 to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. 

The surgery lasted about three hours and included a hemicolectomy, which is the removal of the left part of the colon.

The procedure was carried out under general anesthesia. Dr. Sergio Alfieri performed the surgery with the assistance of eight other physicians.

Colonic stricture, also called stenosis, is a condition in which part of the large intestine becomes narrower than usual. It can become dangerous if it is too narrow to let food safely pass through.

Diverticulitis, a common condition that involves the formation of small bulges or sacs on the wall of the colon, can cause the stricture.

Recovery from diverticulitis surgery typically includes a hospital stay of up to a week and at least another two weeks of limited activity.

As of July 5, there are no major events scheduled on Pope Francis’ public calendar for the upcoming weeks. The Pope traditionally suspends his general audiences during July.

At the age of 84, Pope Francis has only had one other operation during his eight years as pope. He last underwent an operation in 2019, for cataracts.

Earlier this year, the Pope was forced to miss several public events due to a recurrence of the sciatic pain that struck him at the end of 2020. Francis has suffered from the painful condition for several years.

After his personal physician died from the coronavirus in January, Pope Francis appointed internalist Roberto Bernabei as his doctor.

Bernabei is a specialist in aging and director of the School of Specialization in Geriatrics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. He was present in the surgical suite during the Pope’s intestinal surgery at Gemelli hospital.

The Catholic hospital and medical school has treated other popes and Catholic figures, including Pope St. John Paul II, after he was shot in an assassination attempt, and Mother Teresa, who was treated in the clinic’s cardiology department.

Pope Francis greets a crowd of an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome for his Regina Caeli address on May 22.

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Pope Francis greets a crowd of an estimated 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome for his Regina Caeli address on May 22.

Pope Francis: Ask the Lord for the Gift of Peace

‘The more we feel our hearts are agitated, the more we sense we are nervous, impatient, angry inside, the more we need to ask the Lord for the Spirit of peace,’ he said. He also spoke of the dignity of life: ‘Life is a gift from God!’