ROME — Pope Francis was discharged from Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital Wednesday after a 10-day stay following colon surgery.
The pope was admitted to the hospital on American Independence Day (July 4) and released on France’s Bastille Day (July 14), arriving back to the Vatican around noon.
Initially, papal spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pontiff was expected “to remain in hospital for approximately seven days, barring any complications,” which was later amended when the pope’s stay was extended.
On July 7, Luis Badilla, editor of the semi-official Vatican news aggregator Il Sismografo, published an essay emphasizing the gravity of the pope’s health situation and asserting that when he returns from hospital, he “will never be the same again.”
The disease that has affected Pope Francis is “severe and degenerative” and “could also be chronic,” Badilla wrote, adding that what was intended to be simple laparoscopic surgery turned into a much more invasive intervention.
Badilla also said the state of the pope’s health may well upset future travel plans, such as a papal trip to Hungary and Slovakia slated for September.
On July 13, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese wrote that “the hospitalization of Pope Francis marks the beginning of the end of his papacy,” adding that time “is running out” for the 84-year-old pontiff.
The pope’s recent surgery for diverticular stenosis seems to have been successful, Father Reese stated, yet even so “it will be miraculous if he is able to continue as pope for another five years.”
“We may look back at his hospitalization as the moment that marked the beginning of the end of his papacy,” he proposed.
Reese took advantage of his essay to warn progressive Catholics that the Francis pontificate will only be a success “if he is followed by popes who are in sync with his approach to Catholicism, and this is not guaranteed.”
“He has appointed sympathetic men to the College of Cardinals, but conclaves are unpredictable as his own election showed,” Reese said.
Reese praised the pope’s “incredible achievements,” highlighting his positions on migrants and refugees, global warming, and capitalism.
“In short, Francis has rebranded the papacy for the 21st century with a pastoral, prophetic and inclusive voice,” Reese declared, lauding Francis’s downplaying of Catholic doctrine.
If the Francis pontificate is “reckoned a failure,” Reese ended, “it will be because Francis failed to replace or outlast the clerical establishment put in place by John Paul and Benedict,” his immediate predecessors.