Pope resumes public audiences a month after major surgery

  • Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • A general view of the Paul VI hall during the weekly general audience held by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    A general view of the Paul VI hall during the weekly general audience held by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis takes off his protective mask as he arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis takes off his protective mask as he arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis attends his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis attends his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013.

    Pope Francis arrives to attend his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. It was Francis' first general audience since undergoing planned surgery to remove half his colon for a severe narrowing of his large intestine on July 4, his first major surgery since he became pope in 2013. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis walks downstairs to greet the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis walks downstairs to greet the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis poses for a picture with faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis poses for a picture with faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis greets a child at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis greets a child at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis greets the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis greets the faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

  • Pope Francis exchanges his skull cap with another one he was given by faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion.

    Pope Francis exchanges his skull cap with another one he was given by faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Pope Francis on Wednesday resumed his routine of weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, expressing his desire to visit someday Lebanon, as he recalled the first anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/4/2021 2:29 PM

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis resumed his routine of holding weekly audiences with the general public a month after he underwent bowel surgery, and during the much-awaited appearance Wednesday he recalled the anniversary of the devastating Beirut port explosion and expressed the desire to visit Lebanon.

After removing his face mask to protect against COVID-19, Francis walked unaided to the center of the stage of a Vatican auditorium. He smiled as he gestured toward the visitors, before taking his seat in an upholstered chair and addressing several hundred pilgrims and tourists, who wore masks as part of the Vatican's anti-pandemic measures for crowd situations.

 

Near the end of an almost hour-long audience, Francis spoke of the Beirut explosion, recalling the 'victims, their families, the injured, and all those who lost homes and work' in the blast.

Lebanon's people, he said, were still 'tired and disappointed' in the aftermath, a reference to the economic and political crises convulsing the Middle Eastern nation on the Mediterranean Sea. Francis appealed to the international community to offer 'concrete gestures' of help to the Lebanese people and not 'just words.'

'My desire to visit you is great,' Francis said, adding he 'never tires of praying' for them.

Francis, 84, was hospitalized on July 4 in Rome for an operation in which a section of his colon was removed. The Vatican said the surgery was necessitated by diverticular stenosis, or a narrowing of the bowel.

On Wednesday, audience members clapped vigorously after he finished his introductory remarks and after he greeted each language group. After the pope gave participants his closing blessing, he went down the stage's steps with the help of two aides to greet some members of the public, pausing for a selfie with an audience member.

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'I hope that the coming summer holidays will be a time of refreshment and spiritual renewal for you and your families,' Francis said during his scripted remarks.

Unlike previous pontiffs, who spent summers at the Vatican's holiday retreat in the cooler hills near Rome, or, in the case of John Paul II, who liked to vacation in the Italian Alps, Francis stays at the Vatican each summer.

But during his papacy, the Wednesday audiences have been suspended in July to give Francis some extra rest time during Rome's hot summers. His hospitalization therefore didn't interfere with his regular general audience schedule.

While recovering at the hospital, Francis stepped onto a 10-floor balcony to greet well-wishers. He still looks somewhat wan, but Francis has been in good spirits and adlibbed at times during his traditional Sunday window appearances to the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

His wish for a peaceful future for Lebanon echoed sentiments he voiced three days before his surgery. On July 1, at a prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica, Francis insisted that Lebanon must remain a 'land of tolerance and pluralism' as he welcomed the country's Christian patriarchs to the Vatican to pray for an end to that country's crises.

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