Surgeon Who Operated on Cardinal Sarah: ‘I Could Feel His Holiness’

Veneziano described Cardinal Sarah as “a true supporter of the original Christian principles, a very cultured and profound person who is willing to serve the Church for the rest of his life.”

Surgeon Domenico Veneziano with Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Surgeon Domenico Veneziano with Cardinal Robert Sarah. (photo: Courtesy photo. / Courtesy photo)

VATICAN CITY — The surgeon who performed an operation on Cardinal Robert Sarah in southern Italy in July said that treating the Guinean cardinal allowed him to see the prominent churchman in a new way.

“When he was alone in his room, I took a few chances to talk to him a bit,” Domenico Veneziano told CNA.

The doctor said when that he visited Cardinal Sarah’s hospital room, “I could feel his holiness... He told me about the popes and their uniqueness. We also had a few chances to joke.”

“I can say that it’s been an honor to know both sides of Cardinal Sarah: the man and the Eminence,” Veneziano said, referring to the title of honor given to cardinals.

Cardinal Sarah, the 76-year-old retired prefect of the Vatican’s liturgy office, underwent robot-assisted surgery on his prostate in July, according to the health director at the hospital where the procedure took place.

The urological operation was performed with the help of the da Vinci robot, a technology in use since 2016 at the Great Metropolitan Hospital (GOM) in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southernmost point of the Italian peninsula.

Veneziano performed Cardinal Sarah’s surgery from the console of the da Vinci robot, while another surgeon assisted at the bedside.

A robot-assisted operation is a less invasive alternative to open surgery, Veneziano said, which allowed the cardinal to make a quicker recovery.

The surgery had “no complications, no intraoperative issues. I have to admit that I could feel the pressure of operating on a person with such a standing,” the surgeon added.

Veneziano, who performed some routine follow-up checks on Cardinal Sarah in Rome in September, said that “the cardinal is doing fine.”

He noted that the cardinal was still able to fulfill his busy schedule following the operation, traveling to five different countries in the first month post-operative.

“In full respect of his privacy, I can say that his disease, in order to be properly treated, needed high-precision surgery,” he noted.

Veneziano, who is moving to New York City with his family next year, said he hoped to continue following the cardinal’s progress.

“After reading a lot about him in the media, with all the conflicts and mystery that some journalists have poured on him, I was sincerely amazed to know him personally and to share some thoughts with him,” he said.

Veneziano described Cardinal Sarah as “a true supporter of the original Christian principles, a very cultured and profound person who is willing to serve the Church for the rest of his life.”

“I got the feeling that he was unjustly attacked by the media, for a misinterpretation of his work, perhaps to make news,” the surgeon suggested, adding that “a person who lives to spread love and Christian principles is just the profile every Christian would search for in the next pope.”

Cardinal Sarah is “a good man with an aura of holiness,” he said.

Pope Francis attends a general audience at the Vatican.

After Surgery, Pope Francis Says a Nurse ‘Saved My Life’

“This is the second time in my life that a nurse has saved my life. The first was in the year ‘57,” Pope Francis told COPE, in reference to an Italian religious sister who helped him when he was ill with pneumonia during his seminary studies in Argentina.