Pope Francis was released from hospital on Friday morning, nine days after abdominal hernia repair surgery, his doctors said he was stronger than ever.
The 86-year-old pope left Rome’s Gemelli Hospital in a wheelchair, smiling and waving to reporters and well-wishers at the main entrance as he was led to waiting cars.
Sergio Alfieri, who operated on Francis on June 7, told reporters: “The pope is fine. He is in much better shape than before.”
The Vatican said he would recite his noon prayers in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday and resume private audiences next week, but would skip Wednesday’s general audience in the square “to safeguard his postoperative recovery.”
Francis will meet Cuban President Miguel Mario Dias Canel on Tuesday, diplomatic sources told Reuters.
As he was led into the car, Francis was asked about the latest migrant tragedy on the coast of Greece, where at least 79 people drowned early Wednesday and hundreds more were missing and feared dead.
“Very painful, very painful,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.
Before returning to the Vatican, Francis stopped to pray in front of the statue of the Virgin at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of his customs when returning from travel or hospitalization.
When he reached the gates of the Vatican, he briefly got out of the car and stood for a while to thank the Italian police escorts separately.
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Alfieri said the Pope is in good health and can travel on business. Francis left for Portugal in early August and Mongolia at the end of the month.
“He will be able to (perform his duties) better than before because he will no longer feel discomfort. He will be a stronger pope,” Alfieri said.
“He’s back to work. We’ve given him a break and I’m sure he’ll listen to us more this time around because he’s got some big commitments and he’s told us he’s going to respect them.”
“The Pope told us ‘thank you and pray for me, I’m alive,'” Alfieri said.