Pope Francis Leaves Rome Hospital and Returns to Vatican After Surgery

Pope Francis returned to the Vatican on Friday after he was released from a Rome hospital following abdominal surgery for a hernia, the third time in two years that the 86-year-old pontiff has been hospitalized.

Francis left the Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital on Friday morning, nine days after surgeons operated on what is known as an incisional hernia, typically the consequence of previous operations, that had been causing painful intestinal blockages. When he arrived at the Vatican he entered through a side gate, not stopping to speak to the reporters crowded outside.

The pope smiled as he left the hospital in a wheelchair along a sidewalk lined with dozens of well-wishers. Reporters and photographers jostled for his attention, but the pope did not stop. Before getting into the front seat of his car, he shook hands with Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who had operated on him, and waved to the crowd.

The abdominal surgery revived concerns about the health of the pope, who had colon surgery in 2021, was recently in the hospital for bronchitis and suffers from back, hip, knee and leg pain. When a reporter for the state broadcaster RAI asked Francis how he was on Friday, she said he told her, “Still alive.”

Visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday morning expressed happiness, and also some relief, that Francis had returned home.

“Obviously we were concerned — he’s the pope,” said Lisa Favera, a nursing orderly in the town of Dolo, between Padua and Venice, who was visiting Vatican City with her husband and daughter. “I was very moved to know he’d been discharged. I hope we will see him soon so he can reassure us about his health. Being the pope is a demanding job.”

On his way to the Vatican, the pope detoured to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, near Rome’s main train station, where he prayed before a venerated icon of the Virgin Mary, something he often does after trips abroad.

Arriving at the Vatican, through a side door near the guesthouse where he lives, Francis got out of the car to shake hands with police officers.

Doctors have cautioned that Francis should avoid exerting himself in the coming weeks to ensure that his wounds heal properly. He is scheduled to visit Portugal from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6 to participate in World Youth Day, and then Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.

Dr. Alfieri told reporters Friday morning that the pope would be able to handle the trips “better than before,” because “he’s a stronger pope.”

Last Saturday, Dr. Alfieri, the director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at the Gemelli hospital, told reporters that doctors had advised Francis not to rush his recovery and to remain in the hospital until he could properly heal; otherwise he risked going under the knife again.

On Friday, he told reporters that the pope would have to recuperate, “like everyone” who undergoes surgery. The Vatican said in a statement that Francis would deliver the Angelus prayer and address on Sunday, and that other audiences in coming days were confirmed. But the pope will not hold his general audience on June 21, “to safeguard the Holy Father’s post-surgery recovery,” the statement said.

Francis’ nine-day recovery proceeded normally, according to daily Vatican statements, and the pope gradually increased his activities. On Thursday, Francis met with the hospital’s medical team and administrators “in a sign of gratitude.”

The pope has been dealing with various medical issues, and the abdominal surgery represented the second time that Francis has faced a significant health matter during his 10-year papacy. He had roughly 13 inches of his large intestine removed in 2021 because of what the Vatican said was inflammation that caused a narrowing of his colon.

More recently, he was hospitalized in late March for bronchitis at the Gemelli, where popes are often treated. He also has a problem with his right knee and recurrent sciatica, a painful nerve condition.

Waiting in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, Francesca Degasperi, a 21-year-old philosophy student from Trento, said she had been worried about the pontiff’s health, mostly because of his age, “especially after the death of Silvio Berlusconi.”

Mr. Berlusconi, the former prime minister, died this week at 86, the same age as Francis. “It didn’t go unnoticed,” she said.

Father Jerome Yao, a priest from Ivory Coast, said he had prayed daily for Francis while the pope was in the hospital and was grateful that his prayers had been answered.

“It’s like waiting for your father — it is great when he is back home,” he added. “Now we pray that he may go ahead with his mission.”

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