By Nicole Winfield - The Associated Press
ROME (AP) — Pope Francis will go to a hospital Wednesday for intestinal surgery, two years after 13 inches (33 centimeters) of his colon was removed for inflammation and narrowing of the large intestine.
The Vatican said the 86-year-old Argentine pontiff will be fully sedated for the procedure and will spend several days hospitalized at Rome's Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic.
[Exclusive interview with Francis: Pope discusses his health, migrants, abortion, abuses in the Church and his role in Ukraine]
According to the Holy See, Francis will undergo a "laparotomy and plastic surgery of the abdominal wall with prosthetics" to treat a "recurrent, painful and worsening" intestinal occlusion.
A laparotomy is open abdominal surgery and can help the surgeon both diagnose and treat problems.
"The stay in the health center will last several days to allow a normal postoperative period and a complete functional recovery," the statement said.
Pope Francis, rose in hand, prepares to pray before the relics of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, universal patroness of missions (left), upon his arrival at the national audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, June 7, 2023.Andrew Medichini/AP
In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days in the same hospital to have 13 inches (33 centimeters) of his large intestine removed. He then suffered what, according to the Vatican, was severe inflammation and narrowing of the colon. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said diverticulosis, or the bumps in his intestinal wall that prompted the 2021 surgery, had returned.
Francis had gone to the center on Tuesday to undergo what the Vatican said were medical tests, but offered no further details then.
[Pope Francis is discharged from the hospital and jokes, "I'm still alive."]
The pope appeared to be in good shape Wednesday morning during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, which he toured aboard his popemobile and greeted the faithful. Earlier, he had held two meetings, the Holy See explained.
The Argentine pontiff had part of a lung removed when he was young. He also suffers from sciatica pain and for the last year has used a wheelchair and a walker for a strain in the knee ligaments.
Lately he has had a busy schedule, with several audiences a day. The Vatican recently confirmed that it will make several trips in August, when the Holy See and Italy usually take vacations, with a four-day visit to Portugal in the first week of August and a similar trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31.
In a sign that the trips were still ongoing, the Vatican published the planned itinerary for the pope's visit to Portugal between August 2 and 6 on the occasion of World Youth Day. The program confirms the usual busy schedule of protocol meetings of a state visit, in addition to several events with young people and a day trip to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.