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Pope’s Doctors Say He’s on the Mend, but Advise Rest and No Events

Pope Francis is recovering well after undergoing abdominal surgery this past week, his surgeon said on Saturday, but his doctors advised him not to give his traditional public blessing on Sunday so that he can rest.

The surgeon, Dr. Sergio Alfieri, who operated on Francis on Wednesday, told reporters at a news briefing at the Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital in Rome that it was important that the pontiff, who is 86, try to limit movement to avoid straining his abdomen. He also said that Francis’ medical team had suggested that he remain in the hospital for at least another week.

“Compared to other people his age, it’s not like he’s going to go home and sit in front of the television,” Dr. Alfieri said. “He’s the head of a government, overseeing millions of Catholics, a person with important responsibilities, so it’s important that he’s physically strong when he leaves.”

He said that he hoped the pope would take the advice, but that “he’s not the kind of person you can force something on.”

Francis underwent a three-hour operation on Wednesday under general anesthetic to remove scarring from previous abdominal surgeries that had become increasingly painful and to treat a hernia in the abdominal wall by inserting a support mesh.

“To heal optimally,” Dr. Alfieri said, Francis should put as little strain as possible on his abdomen. If he is not careful in the next few days, the mesh could tear, the doctor said, and the pope could end up back in the operating room.

This is why it is important for the pope to limit his movements this weekend, and why reciting the noon Angelus prayer from the balcony of his 10th-floor hospital suite — as he did when he was a patient there in 2021 — would probably place too much strain on his abdomen just days after the surgery, Dr. Alfieri said.

Matteo Bruni, the Vatican spokesman, said that while Francis would not appear publicly, he would recite the prayer “privately in his own hospital room,” adding that “anyone who wants to join him spiritually in prayer is welcome to.”

Dr. Alfieri explained that while Francis’ surgery this past week was minor in comparison to the surgery the pope underwent in 2021, when he had a piece of colon removed, it was also “more complicated,” because it involved operating on scars as well as on a hernia in the abdominal wall.

The doctor said that it would take three months for the pope to heal completely, and that Francis had decided to have the surgery now so that he would be well enough to attend events later in the summer. Francis is scheduled to visit Portugal from Aug. 2-6 for World Youth Day events, and Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. The Vatican said this past week that all of Francis’ public and private audiences had been canceled until June 18 as a precautionary measure.

“From a medical point of view,” Dr. Alfieri said, “he’ll be able to handle his commitments both inside and outside the Holy See better than before.”

Dr. Alfieri also sought to quash recurrent rumors about the pope’s health as concerns grew worldwide after his hospitalization, his third at Gemelli in two years.

“Let me say as a medical professional, that, for his age, the pope, 86 years old, does not have heart problems, nor does he have important respiratory problems,” Dr. Alfieri said. Aside from a problem with his knee, which means that Francis often walks with a cane or uses a wheelchair, “from the cardio-respiratory point of view, he doesn’t, and never has, have a serious problem,” he said.

Asked about the pope’s mood, Dr. Alfieri replied: “Excellent. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be in contact with him.”

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Mohammad SHiblu

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