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‘Do not be afraid, we are with you!’: Four kids in children’s hospital send Pope Francis a get

Dec 07, 2023Dec 07, 2023

Pope Francis is recovering well from the three-hour operation that he underwent yesterday at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome for an incisional hernia, his medical team reported in a statement at midday today, June 8.

It said he "had a tranquil night" and "was able to rest in a prolonged way." The team reported that "he is alert and breathing spontaneously" and "his general condition is good." According to the statement, "the routine control tests" that were carried out "are good," too. It concluded by saying, "He will observe the necessary post-operation rest for the rest of the day."

Four children from Bambino Gesú Children's Hospital in Rome sent a colorful drawing to the pope, depicting him in a hospital bed, with the message, "Do not be afraid, we are with you!"

The information provided by the pope's medical team was sent to the Vatican-accredited media by Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, who said that Pope Francis "has been informed of the messages of closeness and affection that have continued to arrive [for him] in these past hours and expressed his gratitude for these."

Messages have come in from all over the world, including from the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, and from the White House. Messages have also come from cardinals and bishops conferences around the world, including from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, many of whom have called on the faithful to pray for his rapid recovery.

Four children from Bambino Gesú Children's Hospital in Rome sent a colorful drawing to the pope, depicting him in a hospital bed, with the message, "Do not be afraid, we are with you!"

"Pope Francis asks [people] to continue praying for him," Mr. Bruni said.

The medical report was the second substantial update provided on the pope's condition. Earlier this morning, the Vatican issued a one-line reassuring statement saying the pontiff "passed the night well" and promised a report after midday.

Last evening, Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who carried out the operation on the pope yesterday as well as the operation on his colon on July 4, 2021, gave a press conference at the Gemelli Hospital soon after the pope had woken up from the operation and the general anesthesia.

Dr. Alfieri's detailed report brought great relief to Vatican officials as well as to Catholics and other people across the world, and today's midday medical report added to the growing conviction that the 86-year-old pope is on the road to full recovery. Responding to questions from journalists, the doctor said, "From a medical perspective, after he is discharged, he can return to his work and travel." He revealed that "the only thing that we said he should not do is to lift weights or push himself [physically], at which point the pope looked at us with outstretched hands as if to say, ‘But what should I do, I am the pope!’"

Based on the remarks made by Dr. Alfieri yesterday regarding the average recovery time for this sort of operation—five to seven days—it seems likely that Pope Francis will remain in hospital for at least one week to ensure that his recovery is progressing well. It also seems likely that Pope Francis will recite the Angelus prayer at midday on Sunday from the window of his suite on the 10th floor of the Gemelli Hospital as he did in July 2021, when he was hospitalized for 10 days after his colon operation, but the Vatican will not confirm that until Saturday or Sunday morning.

Mr. Bruni told the media that all papal audiences have been canceled until June 18 "as a precautionary measure." He said the events planned after that are still confirmed, among which are the trips to World Youth Day in Portugal (Aug. 2 to Aug. 6), Mongolia (Aug. 31 to Sept. 4) and Marseilles, France (Sept. 23).

At 7 p.m. (Rome time), Mr. Bruni sent another communication Vatican-accredited media, noting that "Pope Francis had a restful day, according to the report from the medical staff that is following his post-operation recovery," and his recovery is on a regular course.

This evening's medical update said Pope Francis "was fed with a liquid diet" today, June 8. It reported that his "hemodynamic and respiratory parameters are stable," which is understood to mean that his blood is flowing in a regular way and his breathing is also regular. The report concluded by saying his "post operation [recovery] course" has been shown to be "regular."

Mr. Bruni said Pope Francis "received the Eucharist today, which is the feast of Corpus Christi."

He said that "among the many messages of closeness" that Francis has received in hospital, the pope was particularly touched by the affection of the family of the little Miguel Angel, the Peruvian child who he baptized on March 31 during his visit to the children's oncological and neurosurgical wards of Gemelli Hospital (where the pope himself was a patient). Mr. Bruni said the family sent the pope a poster of good wishes for a speedy recovery, and Francis made a brief phone call to the mother to thank her personally for this gesture.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, told the press yesterday that once he has recovered sufficiently, Pope Francis will continue "the exercise of his ministry" governing the church "from his hospital bed" and "if there are things that need to be decided, urgent things, these will be taken to him in hospital."

Pope John Paul II was hospitalized at the Gemelli seven times, and he used to refer to the hospital as "Vatican III," with Vatican I being the Apostolic Palace in Rome and Vatican II being the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. This is Francis’ third stay at the Gemelli Hospital, but he has not yet referred to it in this way, perhaps because he has never used Vatican II.

This article was updated at 2:20 p.m., June 8.

Gerard O’Connell is America's Vatican correspondent and author of The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Story of the Conclave That Changed History. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.

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