Pope Francis to Undergo Intestinal Surgery

Pope Francis is expected to undergo intestinal surgery on Wednesday and remain in the hospital for several days, the Vatican said, raising new concerns about his health.

The pope, 86, was taken to the Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital in Rome on Tuesday for what the Vatican said were routine medical checks. The Vatican said on Wednesday that his medical team had determined that surgery under general anesthesia was necessary.

Francis held his weekly general audience as scheduled on Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square. He appeared serene, shaking hands with the faithful and allowing several children to board the so-called popemobile while he was driven around the square.

This is the second time in just over two months that Francis has been admitted to the Gemelli hospital. In late March, he was hospitalized for three days for treatment of bronchitis.

Francis, who became pope 10 years ago, has dealt with a number of health issues, including major surgery in 2021 in which doctors removed roughly 13 inches of his large intestine because of inflammation that caused a narrowing of his colon, and he now often uses a cane or a wheelchair because of knee problems and sciatica.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Francis said he envisioned serving only a few years, and he said on several occasions that he would resign if failing health made it impossible for him to run the church.

But after his surgery in 2021, Francis told a Spanish-language radio station that he had never thought about quitting while suffering from poor health. More recently, he has said he viewed the pontificate as a lifelong mission.

He told a group of Jesuits in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year that he believed “that the pope’s ministry is ad vitam,” using the term “for life” in Latin. Retirement was not on his “agenda,” at least for the moment, he added.

In an interview in January, Francis told The Associated Press that bulges in his intestinal wall had returned. Otherwise, he said, he was in good shape for his age; a fall had led to a slight bone fracture in his knee, but it healed without surgery.

“I’m in good health. For my age, I’m normal,” he said, adding, “I might die tomorrow, but it’s under control. I’m in good health.”

Since his brief hospital stay in March, Francis has carried out a full schedule, holding several audiences a day. He is scheduled to visit Portugal for World Youth Day events from Aug. 2-6, and the Vatican announced Saturday that he would visit Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.

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