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Pope Francis doing well after first night in hospital, Vatican says

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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) -Pope Francis was doing well on Thursday morning after his first night in hospital following abdominal surgery, the Vatican said.

“The night went well,” the Vatican said in a brief statement, adding that more information would be released later in the morning.

Francis, 86, underwent a three-hour operation in a Rome hospital on Wednesday to repair a hernia, which doctors said was successful enough that he should have no limitations on his travels and other activities after he recovers.

Doctor Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon who operated on the pope at Rome’s Gemelli hopsital, said Francis had reacted well to general anesthesia and that he expected the pontiff to be in hospital for about 5-7 days.

But, speaking to reporters after the surgery, Alfieri cautioned that while strong, the pope was elderly and recently had bronchitis so “we will take all necessary precautions” regarding the timing of the hospital stay.

Francis has two trips planned for this summer, to Portugal Aug. 2-6 to attend the World Youth Day and visit the Shrine of Fatima, and to Mongolia Aug. 31-Sept. 4, one of the more remote places he has travelled to.

Alfieri said he saw no medical reason why the pope would have to change his schedule if the recovery went well, as the surgeon expected it to.

The Vatican said all of the pope’s private and general audiences had been cancelled until June 18 as a precautionary measure.

In his 2021 stay there, Francis recited the traditional Sunday prayer from a balcony on the Catholic-run hospital’s 10th floor, which has a suite of rooms reserved only for popes.

Doctors have said the operation was necessary to repair a laparocele, a hernia that sometimes forms over scars usually resulting from previous surgeries. It is more common in older people and it can also be caused by being overweight or weakness of the abdominal wall muscles.

Alfieri said the pope’s condition was causing painful, intestinal occlusions that were becoming more frequent.

Fancis underwent a laparotomy, or open abdominal surgery, and a mesh prosthesis was used to reconstruct the abdominal wall.

In July 2021 he had part of his colon removed in an operation aimed at addressing a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis. He said earlier this year that the condition had returned and was affecting his weight.

It is the third hospital stay for Francis since cardinals chose the Argentinian in 2013 as the first Latin American pope. It is the latest in a string of health problems in recent years.

(Addition reporting by Federica Urso and Gianluca Semeraro, Editing by William Maclean)

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