Francis had cheerfully greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square in keeping with a Sunday tradition and told them he will go to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
Pope Francis “reacted well” to planned intestinal surgery Sunday evening at a Rome hospital, the Vatican announced.
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 stenosis, or narrowing, of the sigmoid portion of the large intestine.
He didn’t say how long surgery lasted.
Francis was hospitalized in Rome on Sunday afternoon for scheduled surgery on his large intestine. The news came just three hours after Francis had cheerfully greeted the public in St. Peter’s Square and told them he will go to Hungary and Slovakia in September.
It was the pope’s first known hospitalization since he was elected to the papacy in 2013.
The brief statement from the Holy See’s press office promised a medical update after the surgery was complete at Gemelli Polyclinic, a Catholic teaching hospital.
The Vatican said the 84-year-old pope had been diagnosed with “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon,” a reference to a narrowing in the large intestine. The surgery was to be performed by Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the director of Gemelli’s digestive surgery department.
A week earlier, Francis had used his same Sunday appearance to ask the public for special prayers for himself, which may have been related to the planned surgery.
“I ask you to pray for the pope, pray in a special way,” Francis had asked the faithful in the square on June 27. “The pope needs your prayers,” he said, adding his thanks and saying “I know you will do that.”
A diverticulum is pouch-like protrusion through the muscular wall of the intestine.
When diverticula become inflamed — a common condition, especially in older people — part of the intestine can sometimes narrow and surgery might be required, according to gastroenterologists. Such surgery can be performed under general anesthesia, possibly with a laparoscopic intervention. Sometimes a re-sectioning of the affected part of the intestine is needed.