Earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister had said that a reported papal visit to the country in June was being postponed due to the pope’s health.
The pope did stand for longer periods when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico caught a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greeted them from the popemobile.
Someone thanked the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis responded: “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”
In early June, the Vatican postponed Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for health reasons. The trip was planned for July 2–7 but was put off “at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee,” according to the Vatican.
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Less than a week later, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would not preside over the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass because of his knee problems and “the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”
Pope Francis commented on his health and spoke about the effects of old age in general terms during his June 15 general audience.
“When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do,” the pope said. “The vigor of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: Be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life. When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: The body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”
Toward the end of the month, on June 28, Pope Francis walked with a cane to meet bishops from Brazil and told them, “I have been able to walk for three days.”
On Aug. 4, the Vatican announced that Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse, had been appointed as Pope Francis’ “personal health care assistant.”
José María Villalón, the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, was recruited to assist Pope Francis with his knee problems. He said the pope is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want” and that “we have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”
In an interview published by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, Pope Francis announced that his diverticulitis had returned. He emphasized that he is in “good health” and that, for his age, he is “normal.”
On Feb. 23 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had a “strong cold.” The pope distributed copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than read them aloud as usual.
On March 29 the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was expected to remain in a hospital in Rome for “some days” due to a respiratory infection. It had been announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.
The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis visited Gemelli Hospital’s center for the elderly for a 40-minute appointment on June 6.
On June 7, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope would undergo an abdominal surgery under general anesthesia in the afternoon.
The operation, a laparotomy and abdominal wall reconstruction with prosthetic material, was necessary due to a hernia causing recurrent, painful, and worsening symptoms, Bruni said.
This story was originally published May 21, 2022, and updated on March 29, 2023, and June 7, 2023.