Pope thanks well-wishers for prayers; Vatican says recovery going smoothly

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis has thanked people for their prayers and many messages of support and affection, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, in a written statement the evening of June 9.

The medical team caring for the pope said they have suspended giving him IV fluids and the pope was continuing "to feed himself on a liquid diet," Bruni wrote.

His temperature and vital signs are all within the norm, he said, and his recovery was proceeding normally. His "clinical status is progressively improving" and his recovery from his abdominal surgery was going smoothly, Bruni reported earlier in the day June 9.

Pope Francis spent the afternoon of June 9 working and set aside time for prayer, Bruni wrote, and in the evening he received the Eucharist.

"Pope Francis is touched by the many messages he continues to receive these past hours," Bruni wrote. The pope was especially keen to send "his thoughts and thanks to the children currently hospitalized, for the affection and love received through their drawings and messages."

"To them, as well as to the medical staff, nurses, social workers and spiritual assistants who touch pain with their hands daily, lifting its burden, he expresses his gratitude for their closeness and prayer," Bruni wrote.

Pope Francis also showed his appreciation on his Twitter account, @Pontifex: "I sincerely appreciate the prayers and numerous expressions of closeness and affection received in the past few days."

"I am praying for everyone, especially those who suffer. I ask you to keep me in your prayers," said the tweet posted the evening of June 9.

After the pope had breakfast June 9, he began to move around on his feet after spending most of the morning seated "in an armchair," Bruni added. He read the day's newspapers and started back to work.

The Vatican newspaper reported June 9 that countless messages have reached the pope since June 7 when he underwent abdominal surgery.

The Italian bishops' conference expressed its "closeness and affection" and invited the nation's Catholics to continue to support the pope with prayer. Italian President Sergio Mattarella said the pope could count on the best wishes of many people of any or no faith.

Rome's Gemelli hospital shared with reporters June 9 photographs of some drawings, cards and crafts made by the children and young adults recovering in its pediatric oncology ward.

One drawing of a large rainbow-colored heart being held aloft by many hands said, "Best wishes for getting well."

Inside, the note said, "We really hope you get better soon. ... Thank you for everything you do" and "We are waiting for you with open arms," inviting the pope to visit them in their ward, like he did in March during his last hospital stay at Gemelli for a respiratory infection.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, asked that Catholics "keep Pope Francis and all those in the hospital in your prayers."

"As Pope Francis recovers from surgery, he is strengthened by faith in the healing power of our merciful God," he said in a written statement released June 7. "Jesus always walks with us and is even closer whenever we need healing and comfort."

Shortly after his general audience June 7, the 86-year-old pope was taken to the Rome hospital where he underwent a three-hour abdominal surgery to treat a hernia, according to the Vatican press office.

The hernia had developed at the site of abdominal incisions from previous operations many years ago, Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope, said at a news conference at the hospital following the operation. Alfieri, who also operated on the pope in 2021, said the pope had no complications and responded well to the general anesthesia he was administered during this surgery and the one in 2021 that removed part of his colon.

The chief surgeon underscored that, in both operations, all affected tissue had been benign.

"The pope does not have other illnesses," he said.

Alfieri explained that while the medical team that follows the pope had been discussing the scheduled operation for several days, the final decision to operate was not taken until June 6, when Pope Francis briefly visited the hospital for a medical checkup and tests.