UPDATE June 7, 12:01 pm EST: In a statement issued by the Vatican in the afternoon, local time, Matteo Bruni revealed that the Pope’s schedule of private and public meetings had been cleared “as a precautionary measure” until June 18.
VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has been hospitalized this morning for a scheduled, but urgent, surgery due to an “incarcerated incisional hernia” which will require a stay of several days in the hospital.
The Vatican made the announcement June 7, with Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni stating that following the customary weekly general audience, Pope Francis “went to the Gemelli University Polyclinic where in the early afternoon he will undergo a laparotomy and abdominal wall plastic surgery with prosthesis under general anesthesia.”
Bruni stated that the operation had been arranged “in recent days by the medical team assisting the Holy Father,” and “became necessary because of an incarcerated incisional hernia that is causing recurrent, painful and worsening sub occlusive syndromes.”
“The stay at the health facility will last several days to allow for the normal postoperative course and full functional recovery,” Bruni added.
The Pontiff made a visit of some hours to the Gemelli hospital yesterday, although unannounced and unacknowledged by the Holy See officially prior to the event. Following Francis’ return to the Vatican, a brief statement was issued which read that “This morning Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Polyclinic to undergo some clinical tests and returned to the Vatican before noon.”
It is understood to be partly as a result of those tests that today’s surgery has come about.
Il Fatto Quotidiano, the first outlet to report on the Pope’s surgery, stated the procedure was “considered urgent.”
Update: Holy See Press Office states the visit was scheduled but unannounced — “This morning #PopeFrancis went to the Gemelli Polyclinic to undergo some clinical tests and returned to the Vatican before noon.” https://t.co/xT8a8alELK
— Michael Haynes 🇻🇦 (@MLJHaynes) June 6, 2023
The incisional hernia follows the Pope’s July 2021 surgery, during which he had part of his colon removed. They form around the sites of previous surgical procedures, and are described as being found in up to 20 percent of laparotomy surgeries. The Pontiff’s significant weight will not be helping his condition either, with medical journals warning that obesity increases the likelihood of complications.
In a note issued at the time of the Pope’s July 4, 2021 surgery, Bruni wrote that the three-hour surgery was “scheduled,” and was “for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.” Francis was discharged July 14 and returned to the Vatican after his 10-day stay in hospital.
Prominent, dissident Jesuit priest and former editor-in-chief at America Magazine, Father Thomas Reese, wrote at the time that the surgery marked a turning point in Francis’ pontificate. “But even with the best prognosis, age is catching up to Francis. Barring a miracle, he will only be expected to continue as pope for five or six years,” wrote Reese. “We may look back at his hospitalization as the moment that marked the beginning of the end of his papacy.”
As ever with the Pontiff’s health, speculation now increases as to the truth of the matter, with the Holy See Press Office having developed a track record over many years of not revealing the true state of affairs.
The Pope’s last visit to hospital in late March was marked by numerous mixed messages from the Vatican’s press office. The press office stated on March 29, the day of his admission to hospital, that the Pope was there for “previously scheduled checkups.”
But the Italian media swiftly debunked the official narrative, stating Francis had to cancel a scheduled interview and his appointments after the Wednesday audience and be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. According to the news reports, which cited sources in the hospital, Francis was suffering from “heart problems” along with breathing issues when he arrived.
An evening statement from the Vatican on the same day then declared that the Pope had for some days “complained of some breathing difficulties,” and that medics had discovered a “respiratory infection (excluding COVID-19 infection) that will require a few days of appropriate hospital medical therapy.”
Francis subsequently told a friend how he had “arrived unconscious” at the Gemelli, after having suffered from an illness for twelve days. The Pope reportedly said: “Just a few more hours and I don’t know if I was telling the story.”
But later the Pontiff contradicted himself, telling journalists on the papal flight back from Hungary at the end of April that he merely had “a strong illness at the end of the Wednesday audience, I didn’t feel like having lunch, I lay down a bit, I didn’t lose consciousness, but yes there was a high fever, a high fever, and at three o’clock in the afternoon the doctor immediately took me to the hospital: an acute and strong pneumonia, in the lower part of the lungs.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic world now awaits the emergence of statements from either the Vatican or the Italian media to clarify the current state of the Pontiff’s health.