Rome — Pope Francis was discharged Friday from the Rome hospital where heto repair a hernia and remove painful scarring, with his surgeon saying the pontiff is now “better than before” the hospitalization.
Francis, 86, left through Gemelli Polyclinic’s main exit in a wheelchair, smiling and waving and saying “thanks” to a crowd of well-wishers, then stood up so he could get into the small Vatican car awaiting him. In the brief distance before he could reach the white Fiat 500, reporters thrust microphones practically at his face, and the pontiff seemed to bat them away, good-naturedly.
“The pope is well. He’s better than before,” Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who performedon June 7 told reporters as the pope was driven away.
Following the surgery, Francis will be a “strong pope,” said Alfieri, who along with the crowd surged toward the exiting pontiff.
Hours after the surgery, Alfieri said the scarring, which had resulted from previous abdominal surgeries, had been increasingly causing the pope pain. There was also risk of an intestinal blockage if adhesions, or scar tissue, weren’t removed, according to the doctors.
No complications occurred during the surgery or whilein Gemelli’s 10th-floor apartment reserved exclusively for hospitalization of pontiffs, according to the pope’s medical staff.
Right after the surgery, the Vatican said all of the pope’s audiences would be canceled through June 18.
But Alfieri said Friday that the pope was well enough to travel, the Reuters news agency reports.
Francis is scheduled to head to Portugal at the start of August and Mongolia at the end of that month.
“He will be able (to carry out his duties) better than before because he no longer will have the discomfort. He will be a stronger pope,” Alfieri said.
Among the high-profile appointments Francis is expected to have next week at the Vatican are audiences with the presidents of Cuba and Brazil, although the meetings haven’t been officially announced yet by the Vatican.
Commitments that have officially been announced include pilgrimages to Portugal in early August for a Catholic youth jamboree and a trip to Mongolia beginning on Aug. 31, a first-ever visit by a pontiff to that Asian country.
In just under two years, Francis had been hospitalized three times at Gemelli Polyclinic. In July 2021, he underwentbecause of narrowing of his intestine. That, as well as abdominal surgeries years before in his native Argentina before he became pontiff, had contributed to the painful scarring, according to Alfieri. Then in early spring of this year, Francis was back in the hospital , an illness Francis later said caused him pain and fever.
As a young man in his native Argentina, Francis had a portion of one lung removed following an infection.
The latest hospitalization came just as Francis seemed to be walking better, with the aid of a cane, following months of often using a wheelchair because of a painful knee problem. He also has suffered from sciatica, a painful inflammation of a nerve that runs down from back to leg.
The health problems have fueled recurring rumors that Francis, more than a decade into his papacy, could decide to resign, as did his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict.
CBS News Vatican consultant Father Anthony Figuereido said earlier this year, however, that Francis had “certainly made it clear – unless he’s impeded from being a pope, maybe through some minor difficulty, some illness of the mind, he will continue to be that pope.”
Earlier this year, Francis became the first pontiff in modern history to.
Francis lauded the late Benedict’s “brave” decision to retire at the age of 85.
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