After hours of waiting, the blinds are pulled up on two windows high up on the tenth floor of Rome's Gemelli Clinic. The evening sunlight should enter the private apartment of the pope, who had to undergo an urgent operation on his abdomen on Wednesday - but seemed to be in a good mood again pretty quickly. Dabe's message from the OP had made believers around the world fear for the 86-year-old pontiff.
In the evening the all-clear follows - and what an all-clear! The Vatican initially announced that Francis survived the operation well. "The Holy Father is fine," said the treating surgeon Sergio Alfieri. "He's awake, alert and was joking again ten minutes ago." The head of the Catholic Church jokingly asked when the third surgery was due; Alfieri had already operated on Francis in the summer of 2021 for an intestinal condition.
surgery was inevitable
In his old age, Francis had actually no longer wanted to experience a possibly dangerous anesthetic. But there was no other way, the pain was getting worse, as Alfieri reports. The Pope had to undergo surgery for what is known as a laparocele. This refers to an incisional hernia in the abdominal area. There was also a risk of intestinal obstruction.
Therefore, the intervention, an opening of the abdominal cavity called laparotomy, was necessary. According to the operating doctor, adhesions in the intestinal area were found, among other things. Doctors removed tissue and inserted a stabilizing plastic mesh. Alfieri predicted a hospital stay of five to seven days. All audiences until June 18 have already been cancelled.
In the Policlinico Universitario Fondazione Agostino Gemelli in north-west Rome, Francis had already been operated on in the summer of 2021, at that time for an intestinal ailment - a so-called diverticulitis. The doctors removed part of the large intestine. He spent around ten days in the hospital. Francis later reported that that intervention probably saved his life. Alfieri now contradicted reports that the Pope did not tolerate the general anesthesia well at the time. Both anesthetics, i.e. the one in 2021 and the current one from Wednesday, went without complications. On the other hand, it is understandable that older people avoid anesthetics whenever possible.
More relaxed the second time
Francis celebrated his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square that morning. At the moment when the Vatican informed the public about the upcoming operation, the pontiff had not yet left the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica, but was talking to believers and young newlyweds.
The board member of the Professional Association of German Surgery (BDC), Carsten J. Krones, said at the request of the German Press Agency that the operation described by the Vatican is a "standard procedure for scar hernias". "The illness and the intervention are certainly serious for an elderly man and, depending on the anatomy, also demanding, but not acutely life-threatening," added the chief physician from Aachen - but emphasized that he did not know the rest of Francis' disease profile.
In and in front of the clinic, in bright sunshine and almost 30 degrees, the news about the Pope's surgery is largely lost in the course of the day. Visitors and relatives of people being treated at Gemelli push their way through the parking lot and the central path to the main entrance. In between, journalists and TV crews buzz around.
Many did not know about the upcoming date
Only a few heard the news about the prominent patient at noon. "No, we didn't know that, but of course we wish him all the best," says an older couple, Mario and Laura, as they leave the clinic. They didn't know how bad his illness was, but of course they would pray for him. "Always" they do that, even when the pope is traveling, "because he is one of the best popes that Christianity has ever had".
"He can do everything! Because he is a great man, a great pope - a really great one!" agrees Roberto from Rome. He wishes that Francis would be 150 years old. "He is a great Pope for the whole world." As he leaves, he calls out: "Viva il Papa!"
On the forecourt of the university hospital there is a large statue of Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis' predecessor, and a poster in the aisle with his famous encouragement: "Don't be afraid." The Pole was also operated on in the Gemelli; the hospital has reserved a separate area with several rooms for papal patients.
Francis had also been to Gemelli Hospital the day before for a check-up. There was still talk of planned controls - but apparently the operation on the stomach was being prepared. This was performed by the surgeon Sergio Alfieri, as reported by the Ansa news agency. Alfieri also operated on the pontiff's intestines in 2021 and is considered a luminary in the field.
Also this year Francis had to be treated as an inpatient in that clinic. At the end of March he spent three days in the hospital because of pneumonia, as he later described.
The fact that Francis' state of health is being discussed again - and even more urgently than often before - is not right for him. The Jesuit minister does not want to be seen as old, frail or even tired of office - even if he has been in a wheelchair most of the time since the beginning of 2022 because of a severe knee problem.