ROME: Pope Francis underwent an operation on a painful abdominal hernia Wednesday, which was completed without complications but which revived concerns over the 86-year-old’s increasingly fragile health.

The Argentine pontiff had been admitted earlier in the day to the Gemelli hospital in Rome, and is expected to stay for several days.

“The operation is over, it went without complications and lasted three hours,” the Vatican press office said in a short statement on Telegram. All papal audiences have been cancelled until June 18.

The pope, who underwent colon surgery in 2021, was suffering from a hernia that was “causing recurrent, painful and worsening” symptoms, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said earlier.

Francis had looked in good spirits as he led his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday morning, waving to the gathered crowds as he did a round of St Peter’s Square in his popemobile.

He then left for the hospital in his white Fiat 500 car, escorted by police.

Francis was suffering from an incisional hernia, which can form over a scar from a previous surgery, the Vatican said.

Bruni said he would be placed under general anaesthesia to undergo “a laparotomy and abdominal wall surgery”, referring to a surgical incision into the abdominal cavity.

A prosthesis would be used to reconstruct the abdominal wall, and “the stay at the health facility will last several days”, the spokesman said.

Francis always retains all his powers as pontiff even while unconscious.

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said earlier that once the operation was over, “if there are things that need deciding, urgent things, they will be taken to the pope in hospital”.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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