When the pontiff spoke this Monday before a group of about 40 rabbis from Europe, Moments of panic spread through the corridors of the Vatican, “Good morning, I greet you all and welcome you,” he said to them as they entered the hall of the Apostolic Palace, where they were waiting. He further said, “Thank you for this visit, which I like very much, but it happens that my health is not good and that is why I prefer not to read speeches but to give and take from you.” A tired voice.
Within a few moments, those five words became headlines in major media. “I am not in good health” shows that he is disclosing a serious illness. A few minutes later, Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni tried to quell the fire and clarified that, although Francisco “He has a little cold.” He will maintain his work schedule as “regular.” The Pope had a 40-minute meeting with Pere Aragonés and, in fact, he then participated in all the scheduled meetings, including a long question-and-answer meeting with children from war-torn countries.
“as long as The Pope is sick, the wind is blowing or Francis himself, responding to a question from Carlos Herrara, warned two years ago about the “conclave storm,” and it happened again this week in Rome. The truth is that so far this year he has twice undergone long recovery at the Gemeli Polyclinic Hospital. One, due to lung infection and second, due to hernia operation. But his health has improved rapidly since his return to Casa Santa Marta in July.
“I see the Pope very well,” admits Argentine doctor and journalist Nelson Castro, the only person with whom Francis has spoken openly about his health. ,his physical strength is amazing, His recovery after the last operation is complete. “He feels great and with a lot of energy,” he explains to ABC. He knows what he’s talking about, because he periodically updates his book “The Health of the Popes”, for which Francis gave him full access to his medical history.
Francisco also reassured about his health in an interview with Rai news director Gian Marco Chiocchi last week. “The knee problem is improving, I can walk well now,” he said, although he almost always uses a wheelchair. “And I have them two stomach operations: The first (in July 2021) due to diverticulitis in the transverse colon, when they removed a few centimeters of intestine, and then what happens when they open your abdomen. In the second, (in June 2023) they were washed away there. I watched the recording of the surgery. Only soap was lacking. They washed off the adhesions that had formed. Now I am fine and can eat everything.”
A nurse was hired in place of the personal doctor.
One of the people directly responsible for this improvement is his personal nurse, 54-year-old Massimiliano Strapetti, who has been his shadow for two years and accompanies him on all his visits and visits to the Vatican. Strapetti, who trained in the ICU and collaborated with the doctors who treated John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The situation is different with Francis, because in the summer of 2022 the Pope It was decided to do away with the “Pontifical Doctor”., and since then his health has been in Strapetti’s hands alone. Nelson Castro highlights, “The relationship with the nurse is very good and this is the result of the trust she gave him after he advised her to undergo surgery for ‘subocclusive diverticular stenosis’, which was the final and dramatic operation.”
Before placing himself in their hands, he has ensured the health of the Pope. three different doctors, Previously, Patrizio Polisca was also Benedict XVI’s personal doctor and helped treat the severe headaches he suffered at the beginning of his papacy.
The Pope replaced him in 2015 with hepatology specialist Fabrizio Soccorsi. This was not because he had liver problems, but because they had a deep friendship and they trusted the experience and wisdom of this experienced doctor. socorsi Died of COVID in January 2021And Francisco went to his funeral as a sign of gratitude.
His successor was Roberto Bernabei, a neurologist, orthopedic and geriatrician at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome. The choice was related to Francisco’s sciatica problems and mobility difficulties. However, between the patient and the doctor The required complexity was never createdThe Pope was having difficulty digesting that he had been strongly advised not to travel to Africa in the summer of 2022, and in Santa Marta he decided to change his plans.
“saved my life”
In practice, the Pope relied at first on the nurse’s advice. When diverticula appeared in his colon a year ago, many advised Pope to limit himself to antibiotic therapy, but Strapetti told him it would be better to have surgery, Actually, it was necessary to remove 33 cm of intestine in the operation room. “Saved my life! She is a person with great experience,” Francisco admitted publicly, speaking about the nurse.
In relation to the nurse, Francisco appreciates her ability to give advice without limiting his initiative or forcing him to cancel events from his agenda. It was also he who, in March this year It was decided to immediately take the Pope to Gemeli Hospital., because he had a “bad feeling” at Casa Santa Marta. He had a respiratory infection. Michele Ferri, an acquaintance of the Pope, said that the Pope “arrived at the hospital almost unconscious.” “If we had waited a few more hours, I wouldn’t have been able to tell,” Francisco would have explained.
His nurse’s opinion was decisive Also in June, when the Pope had to address an “incarcerated hernia” in the operating room that was causing “recurrent and painful” discomfort such as nausea and abdominal bloating. Of course, the doctor who operated on him, 57-year-old Sergio Alfieri, who has repeated this operation nine thousand times, did not make any important decisions without consulting the nurse.
The Pope’s trust in Strapetti is yielding very good results. Since the summer, Bergoglio He is in better physical condition, he has lost weight, and looks better. At 86, who will turn eighty-seven on December 17, he maintains an exhausting pace of work and plans for the future. He skillfully resolved the difficulties of the Synod of Bishops, which involved arduous meetings almost every day for four weeks. Additionally, from December 1 to 3 he will travel to Dubai to promote the climate conference, COP28, and hold bilateral summits with world leaders; And he does not rule out a trip to Argentina in the first quarter of 2024. Of course, always close to Massimiliano Strapetti, who does not take his eyes off him even for a moment.