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Pope Francis, who left Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on June 16, underwent abdominal surgery last week.
The pontiff left the hospital in a wheelchair and spoke to well-wishers and medical staff gathered outside the entrance, as seen on CNN video.
People lined the sidewalk outside the facility to catch a glimpse of the pope, who smiled and waved to those waiting.
He was escorted to a waiting car as security surrounded him as he exited. Francis was photographed praying in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in the Italian capital shortly after his release.
Pope Francis remains in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital after undergoing stomach surgery last Wednesday. He resumed his work from the hospital and will be taken back to the Vatican following his release.
On Thursday, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said the pontiff “had a good night’s rest. Medical staff said the medical course is continuing. Hematochemical tests are within normal range.”
Earlier in the day, Bruni added, “as a sign of gratitude, he coordinated the entire operating team, made up of medical staff, nurses, social and health workers and assistants, and made the surgery possible last June 7.”
The pontiff also visited children in the pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards, “who have expressed their love for the Pope in recent days through numerous letters, drawings and messages, and are being looked after for a speedy recovery,” Bruni said.
“Greeting those present, His Holiness thanked all the health workers for their professionalism and efforts to relieve each other’s suffering with tenderness and humanity in addition to medicines,” he said.
After being released from hospital, Pope Francis prayed in front of an icon of Mary in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on Friday.
Francis has experienced a series of health problems throughout his life, including a colon surgery two years ago. Part of a lung was removed after battling pneumonia as a teenager. In 2019, he underwent eye surgery to treat cataracts at Rome’s Pius XI Clinic. He also suffers from chronic sciatica pain.
In the past year, he has used a cane or a wheelchair to overcome his knee problems.
The Vatican could face a constitutional crisis if Francis continues to suffer medically for a long time. There is no “vice-pope” in the Catholic system, meaning someone who can represent the Pope’s authority in his absence.
The Vatican’s secretary of state, currently Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, can oversee routine day-to-day administration, but he has no authority to appoint bishops or create or suppress dioceses around the world.
Shortly after his election in 2013, the pope revealed in December that he had already arranged for a letter of resignation in a case of permanent medical incapacity.
In an interview with Spanish daily ABC, Francis said he wrote the letter several years ago and gave it to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Darcisio Bertone.
In 2013, Francis’ immediate predecessor, the late Pope Benedict XVI, rocked the Catholic world and made the almost unprecedented choice to step down from his position, citing his “advanced age.”
It was the first time in nearly 600 years that a pope had resigned. The last pope to abdicate before his death was Gregory XII, who left in 1415 to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the Pope’s release.