Pope Francis is in the hospital for his second abdominal surgery in two years

ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis was taken to a Rome hospital on Wednesday for another abdominal operation under general anesthesia, this time to repair a hernia likely caused by scarring from a 2021 operation.

Francis, 86, showed no sign he was about to be admitted to hospital for a planned surgery during his public audience in St Peter’s Square, where he was in good spirits, stopping to kiss the children and stopping to chat with the newlyweds.

Shortly thereafter, he left the Vatican in a simple white Fiat 500 L for the Catholic-run Gemelli Hospital a short drive away that has a tenth-floor ward reserved for popes.

The surgery, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, will make Francis’ third hospital stay since the Argentine was chosen by cardinals as Latin America’s first pope in 2013 and is the latest in a series of health problems in recent years.

A statement, unusually detailed by Vatican standards, said he was expected to stay “for a number of days” to allow for “normal progression after the operation and full recovery of his functions”.

She said the operation was needed to repair a ventral hernia, a hernia that sometimes forms over a scar usually caused by a previous surgery. It is more common in the elderly and can also be due to obesity or weak abdominal wall muscles.

The pope’s medical team decided in recent days that surgery was needed because the condition causes a painful blockage in the intestines. Francis is known to fear the negative effects of general anesthesia, which are also more common in the elderly.

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The statement said that the Pope will undergo abdominal surgery, and a prosthesis will be used to rebuild the abdominal wall.

In July 2021, part of his colon was removed in an operation intended to treat a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis. He said earlier this year that the condition had returned and affected his weight.

Francis spent about 40 minutes in the same Romanian hospital on Tuesday for what the Vatican described as a “medical examination,” without revealing then that it was in fact a pre-operative visit.

Francis was treated for five days in the same hospital at the end of March for a lung infection and last month skipped masses for a day due to a fever.

Pope often uses a wheelchair or walking stick due to persistent knee pain. Last year, he didn’t want to have surgery on his knee because general anesthesia for colon surgery had bad side effects.

Despite his health issues, Francis maintains a busy schedule. On Saturday, the Vatican announced his plans to visit Mongolia from August 31 to September 4, one of the most remote places he has traveled to.

Before that, he is scheduled to visit Portugal from August 2 to 6 to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon and visit the Fatima Shrine. On Tuesday, the Vatican released the official timetable for the flight, hinting at its confirmation.

Additional reporting by Keith Ware, Federico Macchione and Crispian Palmer; Editing by William McClain

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