Pope Francis recovering well but to skip Sunday’s public prayer

Pope Francis will skip Sunday’s customary public prayer and blessing, on doctor’s advice.

The 86-year-old underwent a three-hour-long operation on Wednesday, using general anesthesia. Doctors removed increasingly painful scarring that resulted from previous abdominal surgeries as well as repaired a hernia in the abdominal wall, with the insertion of a prosthetic support netting, or mesh.

He will therefore pray the noon (UTC +2) prayer in his hospital room, and faithful are encouraged to join in the prayer.

Many in Vatican city wished him a speedy recovery:  “We are praying for the Pope, for his health, and we pray to God that the Holy Spirit will heal him soon,” father Michele, a Catholic priest from Democratic Republic of Congo said.

“As human beings we all encounter this, health issues, therefore we are praying. Praying for him”, Kenyan religious sister Gentry added.

While in 10th-floor apartment reserved for papal use at Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome, the Argentinian bishop has graduated from a liquid to a semiliquid diet and had no fever, according to his medical staff.

No date has yet been announced for his release from the hospital.

Blood and imaging tests indicate that the pope’s recovery is proceeding in an “absolutely normal” manner, Sergio Alfieri, who operated on the pontiff, also told reporters on Saturday at Gemelli Polyclinic.

“We hope we will convince him to stay at least the whole next week,” the doctor added.

“Back better?”

When the surgery was announced, the Vatican said the pope was expected to be hospitalized for several days. Alfieri said by opting to spend more of his convalescence in the hospital instead of leaving after a handful of days, the pope can return “to his work with more strength and safety.”

Alfieri recalled his remarks, hours after the surgery, that Francis had experienced no complications during the surgery or from the general anesthesia.

“If he has a careful recovery, he’ll be back better” than before at the Vatican, Alfieri said. “It’s prudence that we suggested and that he wisely accepted.”

During the operation, the surgical team removed adhesions, a kind of internal scarring not infrequent after previous surgery. Two years earlier, Francis had part of his colon removed following a narrowing of a section of the bowel. The hernia that was repaired had formed over a previous scar.

Alfieri had performed the 2021 bowel surgery as well. When he operated this time, “I found the same scars I found two years ago,” the surgeon said Saturday. “Then they weren’t causing symptoms.” But in the time since, the adhesions were increasingly causing pain.

Post-surgery, Francis “doesn’t have much pain,” Alfieri said, adding that the pontiff was on “bland” anti-pain medication “so he can breathe well.”

The Vatican cancelled papal audiences until June 18.

Francis has two trips abroad set for August, the first to Portugal, for World Youth Day a meeting geneally attended by over one million young Catholic Christians. Then, at the end of that month, to (Mongolia, the first-ever pilgrimage) by a pontiff to that Asian country.

Asked about the prospects for those strenuous trips given his surgery, Alfieri said the pontiff, “made these calculations” when deciding to go ahead with the June 7 surgery, an indication that Francis felt that the timing of the operation would allow him to stick to his travel plans.