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Pope Francis Said To Be In Good Condition Following Colon Surgery

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One day after the Vatican's surprise announcement that Pope Francis had been hospitalized for scheduled intestinal surgery, the pope is said to be alert and overall in good condition. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that he's expected to stay in the hospital for another week.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The first bulletin issued after the pope underwent surgery came at close to midnight Sunday and said only that the 84-year-old Francis had reacted well. The rest of the statement listed the 10 doctors who carried out or assisted in the operation. Today at noon, 12 hours after surgery ended, a bulletin gave a few more details. Pope Francis is in good overall condition. He's alert and breathing on his own. It said the operation lasted three hours and involved the removal of part of his large intestine. And the pope is expected to remain in the hospital for seven days barring any complications.

News that Francis would be undergoing an operation came by surprise Sunday afternoon. The Vatican said he suffers from a narrowing of the large intestine that can cause abdominal pain. This is the first time Francis has been hospitalized since his election in 2013. He maintains a heavy schedule of appointments and, contrary to his predecessors, never takes vacations away from the Vatican. He sometimes is short of breath because one lung was removed when he was a young man.

Italian media reported that the pope arrived at Rome's Gemelli Hospital Sunday afternoon, accompanied only by his driver and a close aide, and took the elevator to the 10th floor, the area usually reserved for papal patients. Surgery appeared to be timed with the summer month in which Francis' only public event is his Sunday blessing in St. Peter's Square. It's not clear whether Francis will be back at his Vatican window next Sunday. Information about his health is much less detailed than it was for his predecessor, John Paul II, apparently at the request of Francis himself, who guards his privacy closely.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.