Pope Francis “reacted well” to planned intestinal surgery Sunday evening at a Rome hospital, the Vatican said, without giving much detail about the pontiff’s condition.
In a statement late Sunday, a Holy See spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the 84-year-old Francis had general anesthesia during the surgery necessitated by a narrowing of the large intestine.
The written statement, which came shortly before midnight, was notable for its scarcity of medical detail.
Bruni didn’t say how long surgery lasted, nor for how long the pope was unconscious under anesthesia.
Also not immediately clear was how long Francis would stay Rome’s Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic, a Catholic hospital, although he was expected to convalesce for a few days in a private 10th floor apartment suite reserved for popes.
“The Holy Father, admitted in the afternoon to A. Gemelli Polyclinic, underwent in the evening planned surgery for a diverticular stenosis of the sigmoid” portion of the colon, Bruni said in the brief written statement. “The Holy Father reacted well to the surgery conducted under general anesthesia,” the spokesman said, noting there was a four-person surgical team, plus a four-person anesthesiologist team.
A stenosis is an abnormal constriction or narrowing. The sigmoid portion of the large intestine extends from the end of the descending colon to the rectum. Gastroenterologists say the sigmoid segment is a common location for a diverticular stenosis.
The main surgeon was Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the director of Gemelli’s digestive surgery department.
Among those present in the operating room was the official papal physician, whom Francis tapped earlier this year. The pope’s previous physician had contracted Covid-19 and died at Gemelli while hospitalized for cancer treatment.
It was a remarkable end to a day that began publicly for Francis when, during his traditional Sunday appearance to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, he cheerfully announced he would go to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
The pope made no mention of his impending surgery, but headed shortly after his window appearance to the hospital. At the end of his public remarks from an Apostolic Palace window, Francis told the crowd: “And please, don’t forget to pray for me.” Then he added, sounding casual, almost wistfully: “Thanks, ciao.”A couple hours after he was admitted, reportedly arriving with little escort and no fanfare, the Vatican revealed that Francis had been diagnosed with a narrowing in the large intestine.