Francis Jokes With Surgeon After Three-Hour Operation

News: World News
by Jules Gomes  •  •  June 8, 2023   

Vatican asks pope's doctor to update media in historic press conference

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ROME ( - Dr. Sergio Alfieri, who operated on Pope Francis, told the media on Wednesday evening that the Holy Father "will be able to lead a normal life" after undergoing a three-hour surgery for an incarcerated incisional hernia.

File photo of Pope Francis at the Gemelli Hospital

At a historic press conference shortly after the operation, the first of its kind in which the Vatican allowed the pope's surgeon to speak directly to reporters, Alfieri stated that Francis had a "benign disease" and "has no other diseases."

"The Holy Father is fine. He is awake and alert," he added. Alfieri had also operated on the pontiff at the Agostino Gemelli Policlinic in July 2021 for diverticular stenosis of the colon. 

"He has already cracked his first joke with me!" the surgeon told reporters. "He asked me: When are we doing the third operation?"

"The pope has not and has never had any problems with general anesthesia," Alfieri confirmed, addressing a widespread medical concern about the 86-year-old pontiff's reaction to the procedure.

"Clearly, no one likes to be asleep because we lose consciousness, but there was no anesthesiologic problem two years ago or today," Alfieri explained.

He has already cracked his first joke with me!

The presence of tenacious adhesions in the midgut loops, according to the surgeon, was causing the symptoms. These internal scars, as well as the difficulty of transit, were removed through plastic surgery and the use of a prosthetic mesh.

The 57-year-old Alfieri is a student of Giovanni Battista Doglietto, a top surgeon who worked with Francesco Crucitti, the surgeon who operated on Pope John Paul II three times during his pontificate.


Alferi added, "I advised him not to make any effort" and "not to gain weight." As a precaution, the pontiff canceled all of his audiences until June 18, according to the Holy See Press Office.

Above all, a more controlled diet is needed.

Alfieri is the director of the Gemelli hospital's Abdominal and Metabolic Endocrine Medical and Surgical Sciences Department. Alfieri is a colorectal surgery specialist who has developed minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic techniques with an 85% success rate.  He also specializes in pancreas surgery, severe acute pancreatitis, stomach surgery, abdominal and pelvic masses, and liver metastases from colorectal cancer.

"It was not an emergency decision," Alfieri said, but it was decided yesterday to perform an operation following a CT scan. "Then you know that the pope decides," and the pope "decided personally to organize the operation today and also based on his itinerary."

Journalists camped outside the Gemelli Hospital

Concerns were expressed about Pope Francis' health after the Holy See Press Office informed reporters that he had gone to the Gemelli Hospital on Tuesday morning "to undergo some clinical tests and returned to the Vatican before noon."

The checkup, which lasted less than an hour, was scheduled in advance, and the pope was not taken to the hospital in an ambulance. According to Italian media, Francis visited the Center for the Medicine of Aging at Gemelli as a follow-up to his hospitalization in late March.

"Post-operative recovery is immediate, but rest is needed. And, above all, a more controlled diet is needed," Dr. Giovanni Milito, professor of general surgery at Tor Vergata University in Rome, told the Italian daily Il Messaggero.

"Recovery is immediate, but the patient needs to rest for some time. Generally, it takes 7–15 days to begin physical activity. But you need to rest because the system must settle down well."  Milito added, "The patient must lose weight and ensure good intestinal passage."

Pope Francis was admitted for the operation after he delivered his weekly Wednesday audience. During his speech, he praised St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her "little way."

Francis emphasized that her daily resolution was to "make Jesus loved" and to intercede for others. "Such is the engine of mission!" exclaimed the Pope, explaining that intercession motivated by charity is extremely powerful.

Earlier in the morning, Francis also met with Cdl. Luis Tagle, prefect for the Dicastery for Evangelization, and with Dr. Zuhair Alharthi, secretary of the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

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