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Gerard O’ConnellJune 10, 2023
Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope, speaks at a news conference at Rome's Gemelli hospital June 10, 2023.

Pope Francis’ recovery from the operation for an incisional hernia is “progressing well,” but on the advice of his doctors, he will not recite the midday Angelus in public from Gemelli Hospital on Sunday, June 11.

Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who carried out both the operation on his colon on July 4, 2021, and the operation for the incisional hernia on June 7, said the latter intervention was “more complex” than the first. He had to deal with the scars and removed tissues that had accumulated both from the colon surgery and earlier operations in Argentina when the pope was a young man.

Dr. Alfieri emphasized that it was important in this early stage of the recovery from the operation that the pope “puts as little pressure [as possible] on his abdomen to enable the cicatrizing [healing] process to be done in the best way possible.” He said the pope has to move with care from the bed to the armchair, but to go to the window of the hospital as he did in July 2021 would not be advisable as it would require too much of a stress just four days after the operation. The surgeon recalled that when Francis recited the Angelus from the window in 2021, he did so seven days after the operation. Dr. Alfieri said he and the team had explained this to the pope and told him that “it would not be prudent” to recite the Angelus in public on Sunday, and the pope “with wisdom” accepted their advice.

Pope Francis’ recovery from the operation for an incisional hernia is “progressing well,” but on the advice of his doctors, he will not recite the midday Angelus in public from Gemelli Hospital.

At the press conference, Dr. Alfieri also provided new information on the state of health of the 86-year-old pope. He said: “Pope Francis is well. He has no heart problem. He has not suffered a heart attack, or a [cardiac] ischemia. His heart is fine.” His remarks seemed to be aimed at the rumors that circulated in March, when the pope was hospitalized with bronchitis, that alleged that he had suffered a heart attack.

Furthermore, he said: “He has no respiratory problem today from a medical perspective. If he had problems [in the past], he does not have them now, nor has he had any serious problem since.” The upper lobe of the pope’s right lung was removed when he was 20 years old, but Francis has stated that he has not experienced any respiratory problems since that operation in 1957.

Dr. Alfieri explained that the pope has “no other pathologies” of a cardiac or respiratory nature.

He confirmed that the pope’s post-operation recovery “continues to be regular,” the intravenous drips have been suspended, “he feeds himself with a semi-liquid diet, he does not have fever, and the blood flow is stable.” Moreover, “the post-operation blood tests and chest X-rays are good,” he said.

Commenting as a doctor who has had “the privilege” of being able to get to know the pope well, Dr. Alfieri told the press, “He is in very good humor, it is a pleasure to speak with him, and although the Holy Father is 86 years old, he has the head of a man of 60!”

“He is in very good humor, it is a pleasure to speak with him, and although the Holy Father is 86 years old, he has the head of a man of 60!”

Dr. Alfieri told the press that the medical team advised the pope to remain in hospital for a week to ensure a good recovery, which would enable him to return to his work and travels without risking a relapse due to the opening of the scars or breaking of the prosthetic net that has been implanted.

A note from the medical team, given to the press, said Pope Francis “is following an attentive convalescence that aims at minimum force on the walls of the abdomen to allow both the prosthetic net that was implanted and the repair of the muscle bands to cicatrize [heal] in the best way.”

The surgeon explained that the complete process of cicatrizing normally takes about three months, “but of course we won’t keep him here for three months!”

Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office who chaired the press conference, recalled that the Vatican has suspended all papal audiences until June 18. As for the events after that, he said they remain confirmed as of now.

Mr. Bruni said that Pope Francis “will recite the Angelus in private, uniting himself spiritually with affection and gratitude to the faithful who wish to accompany him, wherever they are.”

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