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The Pope returns to the Vatican, “it’s better than before”, says the chief surgeon

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican after a nine-day stay in hospital and intends to continue his planned trips abroad in August and September, according to his chief surgeon.

“The pope is fine. He is better than before,” said Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon who operated on the pope on June 7 to repair a hernia; he also operated on the pope in 2021.

“The pope has confirmed all his trips,” the doctor told reporters outside Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on June 16, just after the pope was released. The pope was scheduled to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, from August 2-6, and travel to Mongolia from August 31-September 31. 4.

Pope Francis smiles and waves to people as he leaves Rome’s Gemelli Hospital early June 16, 2023, nine days after undergoing abdominal surgery. (CNS Photo/Vatican Media)

“In fact,” Alfieri said, according to Vatican News, “he will be able to embark on it better than before because now he will not have the discomfort of his previous ailments. He will be a stronger pope.

Asked about the pope’s “convalescence” to fully recover from abdominal surgery, Alfieri said: “He’s not convalescing; it has already started working.

“We asked him to recover (and) this time I’m sure he will listen to us a little more because he has important events ahead of him and he has already said personally that he will go through with them all, including his travels,” Alfieri said.

When the pope emerged from the hospital in a wheelchair on the morning of June 16, he greeted well-wishers and reporters who asked how he was doing. “I’m still alive,” he said smiling.

He also expressed his grief over the recent deaths of migrants who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea near Greece.

He was escorted to a waiting white Fiat car by his aides and Alfieri, then, with the front passenger side window open, waved to others lining the road as he drove off.

Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the icon of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani”, in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, a stop he makes before and after every trip abroad and a stoppage he also made in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery at the Gemelli.

Afterwards, the pope “stopped for a brief private visit to the sisters of the Institute of the Most Holy Child Mary, gathered for their general chapter,” the Vatican press office said. The pope also greeted the police outside one of the side entrances to the Vatican to “thank them for their service.”

The Vatican press office said the Pope’s Angelus address and prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square on June 18 has been confirmed, as well as individual audiences in the coming days.

His June 21 general audience, however, was canceled, “to safeguard the Holy Father’s postoperative recovery,” he said in a June 16 statement.

Pope Francis underwent three-hour surgery to repair a hernia on June 7. The procedure, under general anesthesia, was performed using surgical mesh to reinforce the repair and prevent the recurrence of a hernia. Surgeons also removed several adhesions or bands of scar tissue that had formed from previous surgeries decades ago, Alfieri told reporters after the operation.

Alfieri had explained that the pope’s immediate recovery required avoiding excessive stress or strain so as not to tear the prosthetic mesh used to reinforce the abdominal wall.

The pope had spent seven days in hospital in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery to treat diverticulitis, an inflammation of the bulges in the intestine. He was also hospitalized for three nights with a respiratory infection in late March.

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Copyright © 2023 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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