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Pope Francis: Pontiff to miss weekly Sunday blessing after operation

Doctors treating Pope Francis say he is recovering well from surgery, but have asked him not to deliver his Sunday blessing from a hospital balcony.

He underwent a three-hour operation to repair an abdominal hernia in Rome's Gemelli hospital on Wednesday.

Briefing reporters on Saturday, surgeon Sergio Alfieri said the 86-year-old would not perform the weekly blessing to avoid strain on his abdomen.

He added the Pope would stay in hospital for all of next week.

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said the Pope would instead say the traditional noon Angelus prayer from his hospital suite, and urged the world's Catholics to join him.

"Only three days have passed. We asked the Holy Father to be prudent and avoid the strain [of standing at the balcony]", Dr Alfieri told reporters.

He added that the Pope had mesh prosthetic inserted into his abdominal wall to help it heal and doctors want it to settle and attach properly to avoid another operation if it breaks.

"You can understand how that would not be pleasing for him, and for me," Dr Alfieri joked. "Each time he gets out of bed and sits in an armchair puts stress on the abdominal walls."

But he insisted that Pope Francis remained in good spirts, and had started eating a diet of semi-solid foods again.

The pontiff did not have fever, the doctor said, adding that his heart rate and blood pressure were stable.

Pope Francis, who was chosen by cardinals to lead the Catholic Church after his predecessor Pope Benedict resigned in 2013, has faced a host of health issues in recent years.

Due to knee pain he regularly uses a cane and wheelchair to get around, and in March he spent three days in hospital to treat a lung infection.

In 2021, he spent 10 days in hospital after having a part of his colon removed, while last month he pulled out of his Friday audiences due to a fever.

But while his predecessor Benedict XVI quit the role citing health issues - becoming the first Pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years - Pope Francis has dismissed the possibility of leaving office too.

"You don't run the Church with a knee but with a head," he is said to have told an aide last year.

The Pope is considered to have been in general good health during his decade leading the Catholic Church

He continues to maintain a busy schedule, and is due to visit Portugal and Mongolia from August.

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