Pope Francis was discharged from the hospital on Friday following a successful hernia operation. He then made his way to the Vatican, where his health will face heightened scrutiny in anticipation of a busy summer ahead.
Exiting the Gemelli hospital in Rome at 8:45am, a smiling Pope Francis expressed gratitude to the crowd of well-wishers as he was wheeled out in a wheelchair.
Since his election in 2013, the 86-year-old pontiff has encountered a series of health challenges, ranging from hip problems, knee pain, and weight gain to an inflamed colon and respiratory infection. These ongoing issues have underscored the importance of closely monitoring his well-being as he continues to fulfil his duties in the coming months.
The Pontiff underwent a three-hour anaesthesia operation on June 7 to remove a painful hernia near a scar from a previous injury. This marked his third hospital stay since 2021.
The pope remained in high spirits moments after the operation, engaging in jovial conversations and jokes with the medical team. Regular updates on his steady recovery have been provided by the hospital. Consequently, the Vatican decided to cancel papal audiences until June 18, allowing ample time for the pontiff to recuperate.
Pope Francis, however, did not waste time in resuming work from his suite at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, which is often referred to as “Vatican II” due to its popularity among pontiffs. In a playful manner, he ranked it as the third most significant location for the Vatican, following St. Peter’s Square and the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
Doctors confirmed on Thursday that Francis would be able to return home on Friday morning. Pope Francis spent his last day at the hospital visiting children in the pediatric oncology and child neurosurgery department, thanking the medical staff. Many of the children had sent him letters and drawings wishing him a speedy recovery.
All eyes are now on Pope Francis as he transitions back to his regular schedule upon returning home. He has a busy agenda ahead, including trips to Portugal and Mongolia in August. His visit to Portugal for World Youth Day in Lisbon from August 2 to 6 entails a packed program with numerous meetings and events.
Pope Francis underwent a lung surgery in his youth and he often needs to reduce his schedule due to health concerns. He underwent surgery for diverticulitis at the Gemelli hospital in July 2021. Additionally, he was hospitalized for three nights in March due to a respiratory infection.
Speculation about a potential resignation have been circulating in recent months. Pope Francis has previously expressed his willingness to consider stepping down if his health deteriorates, following the example of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
In July 2022, he acknowledged the need to slow down due to his age and limitations but clarified in March that he presently has no plans to resign.