VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis visited a hospital in Rome on Sunday for scheduled surgery for a stricture, or restriction, of the large intestine, the Vatican said.
The brief announcement from the Holy See’s press office did not specify when the operation would be carried out, but indicated that there would be an announcement when the operation was completed.
Barely three hours earlier, Francis had happily greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square according to Sunday tradition and told them that he would be going to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The Vatican said the Pope had been diagnosed with “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon,” a reference to a narrowing of the large intestine.
A week earlier Francis, 84, had used the same appearance to ask the audience for special prayers for himself, which in hindsight might have hinted at the planned surgery at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome.
“I ask you to pray for the Pope, pray in a special way”, Francis had asked the faithful in the square when he appeared on June 27. “The Pope needs your prayers,” he said, adding his thanks and saying “I know you will”.
Francis is generally in good health, but had part of a lung removed when he was young. He also suffers from sciatica, sometimes having painful attacks that involve a nerve affecting his lower back and leg. This sometimes required him to skip scheduled appearances.
The Pope has had a series of particularly demanding appointments last week, including the celebration of a mass on Tuesday to mark the Catholic holiday in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, and later in the week the presidency of a special prayer service for Lebanon. On June 28, he also had a long private audience at the Vatican with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Throughout these engagements, François seemed to be in a good mood.
Gemelli doctors have previously operated on papal patients, including Pope John Paul II, who had a benign colon tumor removed in 1992.