Pope Francis: “I’m still not well”

Before the catechesis for the general audience, the Pontiff returned to his health conditions. Yesterday the decision was made to cancel the trip to Dubai

“I’m still not well.” Pope Francis, this morning before the catechesis for the general audience, returned to his health conditions: “Dear brothers and sisters, I’m still not well with this ‘croup’ (flu in Spanish) and my voice isn’t doing well”. Yesterday the decision was made not to leave for Dubai for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Pope’s doctors put the brakes on the trip, highlighting that “even though the general clinical picture of the Holy Father in relation to the flu and inflammation of the respiratory tract has improved”, a trip would have been too impactful.

Like many Italians in these days of the first real cold, the Pope, 87 years old on December 17th, must also look at himself and remain in Rome. The doctors’ precautions are the result of a state of health that must always be monitored given the clinical history and the interventions that Pope Francis has had to undergo over the years.

From operations in his youth to hospitalizations at Gemelli

In June the world was held in suspense by the hospitalization of Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome for a laparocele operation ‘imprisoned’ with adhesions that caused him severe pain, the third time that Pope Francis was hospitalized in Roman IRCCS. The last time it happened was on March 29, due to infectious bronchitis which caused him respiratory problems. The hospital stay in that case was short and the Holy Father was discharged on April 1st. Also in the summer of 2021 he was taken to Gemelli, on 4 July a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon kept him in hospital for about ten days. There are therefore 5 surgical operations undergone by Bergoglio: one when he was a boy, one as a young man, a third when he was a priest in Argentina (1957 and 1980) and two as Pope, at Gemelli: the one for the removal of a section of intestine with diverticula in July 2021 and June 2023.

In the book ‘The health of the Popes’ (Piemme editions), the doctor and journalist Nelson Castro interviewed Francis about his medical history. “It was August 1957. I was attending the second year at the Villa Devoto Seminary. That winter a strong influenza epidemic had spread and many seminarians had been infected. So had I. But in fact in my case the situation had changed evolved in a more complicated way. While my companions were recovering in a few days, without any consequences, I continued to present a persistent feverish state.” He was taken to the Syrian-Lebanese hospital, the pulmonologist found “three cysts on the upper lobe of the right lung. There was also a pleural effusion which caused pain and breathing difficulties. After months – we read in the book – of therapies to bring out the effusions, the doctor decides to operate to remove a piece of the lung”.

The surgery succeeds well, and Bergoglio suffers no consequences. “I have never felt fatigue or lack of air – the Pope reveals in the interview – The doctors explained to me that the right lung had expanded to occupy the entire ipsilateral hemithorax. The expansion was so complete that, if is not informed in advance, only a first-class pulmonologist can identify the absence of the removed lobe.”

Precisely this stage in the Pope’s clinical history was remembered by Professor Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who operated on the Pope on 7 June 2023 at the Gemelli Polyclinic, the ‘incarcerated’ hernia had formed “in correspondence with scars from previous surgical interventions over the years past”.