Alessandra Tarantino / AP
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis went to a Roman hospital on Sunday for scheduled colon surgery, the Vatican said. The news arrived just three hours after Francis cheerfully greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square and told them he would be going to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
A brief statement from the Holy See’s press office did not say exactly when the surgery would be performed at the Gemelli Polyclinic, a Catholic teaching hospital, but said it would be announced when the operation is over.
The Vatican said the 84-year-old pope was diagnosed with “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon,” which refers to a narrowing of the colon. The operation was to be performed by dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of Gemelli’s digestive department.
A week earlier, Francis had taken advantage of his same Sunday performance by asking the public for special prayers for himself, which in turn could hint at a planned operation.
“Please pray for the pope, pray in a special way,” Francis asked the faithful in the square on June 27th. “The Pope needs your prayers,” he said, adding gratitude and saying “I know you will do it.”
Francis is generally in good health, but as a young man part of one of his lungs was removed. He also suffers from sciatica, occasionally having painful attacks of a condition in which the nerve affects the lower back and legs. This sometimes forced him to skip scheduled performances.
The pope had particularly demanding meetings last week, including celebrating Mass on Tuesday to mark a Catholic holiday in honor of Saints Peter and Paul, and later in the week, presiding over 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. Through all these engagements, Francis seemed to be in good spirits.
Gemelli doctors had previously performed surgeries on papal patients, including Pope John Paul II, who had a benign tumor in his colon removed in 1992.