Pope Francis 'reacts well' after planned intestinal surgery at hospital in Rome

Pope Francis, 84, has "reacted well" to planned intestinal surgery on Sunday evening at a Rome hospital, the Vatican said.

A view of the Gemelli Polyclinic, where Pope Francis has been hospitalized, in Rome, early Monday, July 5, 2021 (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca).
A view of the Gemelli Polyclinic, where Pope Francis has been hospitalized, in Rome, early Monday, July 5, 2021 (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca).

Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni said the 84-year-old Francis's surgery was carried out as a result of a narrowing of the Pope’s large intestine.

The written statement, which came shortly before midnight did not say how long surgery lasted, nor for how long the pope was under general anaesthetic.

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It is not clear how long Francis will stay at Rome s Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic, a Catholic hospital, although he is expected to convalesce for a few days in a private 10th floor apartment suite reserved for popes.

Pope Francis delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican on July 4, 2021. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

"The Holy Father, admitted in the afternoon to A Gemelli Polyclinic, underwent in the evening planned surgery for a diverticular stenosis of the sigmoid (portion of the colon)", Mr Bruni said in the brief written statement.

"The Holy Father reacted well to the surgery conducted under general anaesthesia," the spokesman said, noting there was a four-person surgical team, plus a four-person anaesthesiologist team.

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A stenosis is an abnormal constriction or narrowing. The sigmoid portion of the large intestine extends from the end of the descending colon to the rectum.

Gastroenterologists say the sigmoid segment is a common location for a diverticular stenosis.

The main surgeon was Dr Sergio Alfieri, the director of Gemelli's digestive surgery department.

Among those present in the operating room was the official papal physician.

The pope's previous physician had contracted Covid-19 and died at Gemelli while undergoing cancer treatment.

On the same day as his surgery – during his traditional Sunday appearance to the faithful in St Peter's Square – the Pope announced he would go to Hungary and Slovakia in September.

The pope made no mention of his impending surgery, but headed to the hospital shortly after his window appearance.

At the end of his public remarks from an Apostolic Palace window, Francis told the crowd: "And please, don't forget to pray for me."

A couple hours after he was admitted, reportedly arriving with little escort and no fanfare, the Vatican revealed that Francis had been diagnosed with a narrowing in the large intestine.

A week earlier, Francis had used his same Sunday appearance to ask the public for special prayers for himself, which may have been related to 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 you will do that."

Francis is in generally good health, but he did have part of one lung removed as a young man. He also suffers from sciatica, in which a nerve affects the lower back and leg, a painful condition that has forced him at times to skip scheduled appearances.

Get-well wishes began arriving immediately for Francis. Italian president Sergio Mattarella, as soon as he landed in Paris for a state visit in France, offered an "affectionate thought" on behalf of all Italians.

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