Pope will undergo surgery on his intestines today after suffering stomach pains, Vatican


Pope Francis will have surgery for a painful abdominal hernia at a hospital in Rome this afternoon after he complained of stomach pains, the Vatican has revealed.

The 86-year-old pontiff will be put under general anaesthetic and is expected to stay in the hospital for ‘several days’ to recover.

The pope’s medical team had decided in recent days that the surgery was required to treat a ‘recurrent, painful and worsening’ constriction of the intestine.

The procedure comes two years after he had 13 inches of his colon removed because of an inflammation and narrowing of the large intestine. 

The pope is set to have his latest operation on his abdominal wall today following his weekly audience at the Vatican this morning. 

He had gone for a 40-minute check-up at Gemelli hospital – where he is having the surgery – yesterday over concerns about stomach pains.

Pope Francis (pictured today at the Vatican before the surgery) will have surgery on his abdomen on Wednesday afternoon at Rome's Gemelli hospital after he complained of stomach pains

Pope Francis (pictured today at the Vatican before the surgery) will have surgery on his abdomen on Wednesday afternoon at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after he complained of stomach pains

Pope Francis leans over his walking stick at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday before his surgery

Pope Francis leans over his walking stick at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday before his surgery 

But he nevertheless appeared in high spirits on Wednesday morning at his audience in St Peter’s Square, zipping around the square in his popemobile and greeting the faithful with smiles and wavs.  

He also had two meetings before the surgery, the Vatican said. 

Sources told La Stampa that following Pope Francis’ colon surgery two years ago, hernias have formed, which risk blocking the intestine. 

The Vatican said the pope will be undergoing an open abdominal surgery which can help a surgeon both diagnose and treat issues. Francis retains all his powers as pontiff even while unconscious.

‘The stay at the health facility will last several days to allow for the normal postoperative course and full functional recovery,’ the Vatican said. 

The Gemelli hospital is the favoured choice of pontiffs to the point of being dubbed ‘Vatican 3’ by pope John Paul II, who was treated nine times at Gemelli and spent a total of 153 days there. 

In July 2021, Francis spent ten days at Gemelli to remove the 13 inches (33 centimeters) of his large intestine.

And in January this year, the pontiff said the diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall had returned. 

Pope Francis had come out of the 2021 surgery saying he could eat whatever he wanted, but complained that he hadn’t responded well to the general anesthetic used in the longer-than-expected procedure. 

That reaction in part explained his refusal to have surgery to repair strained knee ligaments that have forced him to use a wheelchair and walker for over a year. 

The fact that he is going back for surgery suggests he had little choice but to treat the intestinal issue, especially given his rigorous upcoming travel schedule this summer. 

The pope has been plagued with health issues since he was a young man, owing to the complications of a severe condition he contracted in his 20s.

When he was 21, he developed pleurisy – the inflammation of the tissue between the lungs and the ribcage. 

The affliction was so serious he almost died and doctors were forced to remove several pulmonary cysts and a small part of his upper right lung, according to the pope’s biographer Austen Ivereigh. 

A lengthy recovery process followed, which impacted his voice – he is often heard speaking in little more than a whisper.

The pontiff said he had made a full recovery from pleurisy, but his reduced lung capacity puts him at greater risk of chronic respiratory diseases.

The 86-year-old pontiff (pictured today) will be put under general anesthetic for the abdominal surgery and is expected to stay in hospital for 'several days' to recover

The 86-year-old pontiff (pictured today) will be put under general anesthetic for the abdominal surgery and is expected to stay in hospital for ‘several days’ to recover

Pope Francis waves as he leaves in the popemobile at the end of the weekly general audience on Wednesday ahead of his surgery

Pope Francis waves as he leaves in the popemobile at the end of the weekly general audience on Wednesday ahead of his surgery

The Argentine pope also suffers from sciatica nerve pain. 

He was hospitalised in March this year with a bout of pneumonia after he experienced difficulty breathing at his weekly general audience at the Vatican. He emerged on April 1 saying ‘Still alive!’ 

Asked about his health in an interview with US Spanish-language network Telemundo broadcast in May, Francis said it was ‘much better’.

‘I can walk now. My knee has been mending. I could hardly walk beforehand. Now I can. Some days are more painful than others,’ the pope said.

Francis added that doctors had caught his respiratory infection just in time.

‘If we’d waited a few more hours, it would’ve been much more serious. But I was out (of hospital) in four days,’ he said.

The Vatican has recently confirmed he will have a travel-filled August, with a four-day visit to Portugal in the first week of August and a similarly long trip to Mongolia starting on August 31. 

Signalling that the trips are still very much likely to go ahead, the Vatican on Tuesday released the planned itinerary for his visit to Portugal for World Youth Day events from August 2 – 6. 

The itinerary confirms a typically busy schedule that includes all the protocol meetings of an official state visit, plus multiple events with young people and a day trip to the Marian shrine at Fatima. 



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