Shortly before Pope Francis’ planned colon surgery, Salvatore Izzo the director of the Vatican
news website told Francis about his own medical problems, but Francis did not reveal his pending surgery in return. The Vatican and the Pope probably wanted to keep the surgery a secret to avoid the hospital admission from becoming a show. The Vatican’s history of making things unclear regarding the pope’s health is well established. When Pope John Paul II had a
tracheotomy to relieve breathing problems in 2005, the Vatican spokesman told reporters that John Paul II ate 10 cookies for breakfast. He died shortly after. There is a dark joke told in the Vatican: the pope is always well until he dies, and even a bit after that.” Iacopo Scaramuzzi, a Vatican expert writes that the secrecy is due from fear of division in the Church from premature and improper scheming and plotting by cardinals seeking a successor. However, it has been said that the Vatican has been much more transparent about Pope Francis’ health problems than for previous popes. The Vatican said Francis was recovering steadily from surgery, and there was no reason to doubt this. Despite initial estimates of requiring a week in the hospital, he needed a few more days to complete his recovery. While in the hospital, he sent an affectionate message to the young patients in the nearby pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards. The children sent Francis their hand wri6en cards in return. One message read “Dear Pope Francis, we know that you are not very well and that you are now in the same hospital as us. Even if we cannot see each other, we send you a strong hug and we wish you to get well soon.” Another girl drew a picture of herself holding his hand while he was in bed, and wrote: “Dear Pope Francis, feel my prayer like I felt yours when I was sick.” On July 11th Francis appeared on the 10th floor balcony of the hospital and was greeted with shouts from the crowd of “Viva il papa” (Long live the pope”). He addressed the people and reflected on the Sunday Gospel. He said that his time in the hospital gave him the opportunity to experience “once again how important good health is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit (that) must not be lost.” He acknowledged that some hospitals run by the church face the threat of closure “due to poor management, the Catholic Church’s vocation “is not to have money; it is to offer service and service is always freely given.” He asked for prayers for the patients, especially the children at the hospital, and several stood with him on the balcony. Ten days after undergoing this planned surgery Pope Francis left the hospital and returned to the Vatican. Two weeks after the operation he delivered his Sunday blessing to a crowd of serval hundred gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He sounded cheerful and spoke of the value of taking a break. He recommended “rest, contemplation and compassion. Let’s take advantage of summertime for this.”