Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, will undergo abdominal surgery and remain in a Rome hospital for several days, the Vatican announced on Wednesday, June 7, in the latest health issue for the pontiff.
The 86-year-old Pope was forced to cancel many work engagements in late May after being hospitalized with a fever. He was also hospitalized in March with bronchitis but reacted well to medication.
The treatment, known as a laparotomy, is performed under general anesthesia to correct a hernia that the Vatican claims is causing “recurrent, painful, and worsening” symptoms.
According to reports, the intervention is likely related to the surgery Francis had in 2021 to remove half of his colon.
The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, added the pope is expected to make a “full functional recovery.”
In addition to his colon surgery two years ago, Francis had part of one lung removed after a severe bout of pneumonia as a young man. More recently, in 2019, he underwent ocular surgery at Rome’s Clinic of Pius XI to treat a cataract. He has also struggled with chronic sciatica pain recently.
Over the past year, he experienced knee troubles made him use a walking stick or a wheelchair.
If Francis remains handicapped for an extended period of time, the Vatican may face a constitutional problem. There is no “vice pope” under the Catholic system, which means that someone can exercise the pope’s power in his absence.
Francis stated in a December interview with the Spanish daily ABC that he had already drafted a letter of resignation in the event of permanent physical disability shortly after his election in 2013.