Pope Francis, following doctors’ advice, will skip Sunday’s customary public blessing to allow him to better heal after abdominal surgery earlier this week, his surgeon told reporters.
Sergio Alfieri, who operated on the pontiff, also told reporters at Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome that blood and imaging tests indicate that the 86-year-old pope’s recovery is proceeding in an “absolutely normal” manner.
The three-hour-long operation on Wednesday under general anaesthesia removed increasingly painful scarring that resulted from previous abdominal surgeries as well as repairing a hernia in the abdominal wall, with the insertion of a prosthetic support netting.
Dr Alfieri said while Francis’s recovery has been medically uneventful, any extra physical exertion, like moving to an armchair to recite the traditional Sunday noon blessing and commentary to the public via a video hook-up, could be risky at this point.
“In the next few days, if he’s not careful about healing, the netting could tear and he’ll be back in the operating room,” the surgeon said.
“If he has a careful recovery, he’ll be back better” than before at the Vatican, he said. “It’s prudence that we suggested and that he wisely accepted.”
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope would recite the traditional Sunday noon prayer privately in his hospital room and that faithful are encouraged to join in.
Meanwhile, thousands of people were expected in St Peter’s Square for a late-afternoon gathering at the Vatican to promote brotherhood — a quality so dear to Francis he wrote an encyclical on its importance in 2020.
In that document, the pope explained his vision of a post-Covid world built on solidarity, fraternity and care for the environment.
But instead of hearing a speech from the pope, as originally hoped, a Vatican cardinal will read a speech from Francis, Mr Bruni said.
While in the 10th-floor apartment reserved for papal use at Gemelli Polyclinic, Francis has been reading newspapers while sitting in an armchair, and spent time working and in prayer, the Vatican said earlier in the week.
No date has yet been announced for his release from the hospital.
Dr Alfieri recalled his remarks, hours after the surgery, that Francis had experienced no complications during the surgery or from the general anaesthesia.
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.