Francisco visits children with cancer in hospital where he recovers from operation

Roma. Pope Francis on Tuesday visited children with cancer at the Rome hospital where he is recovering from intestinal surgery. The Vatican said the pontiff will be discharged “as soon as possible.”

Smiling and standing, the pontiff stroked the heads of young children as their parents carried them, according to photos of the meeting released by the Vatican. The visit to the children’s cancer ward of the Gemelli Polyclinic, on the same 10th floor as the papal suite, occurred in the afternoon.

In its daily medical report, the Vatican did not give a date for the pope’s discharge. He reiterated that the 84-year-old pontiff was continuing his planned course of treatment and rehabilitation.

Doctors removed half of Francisco’s colon on July 4 due to severe narrowing of his large intestine, in his biggest surgery since he assumed the papacy in 2013.

The Vatican had originally said that Francis could be discharged over the weekend, but now said he would stay a few more days.

The prelate appeared for the first time in public since the operation on Sunday and was seen in good shape when he said his weekly prayers from the 10th floor of the hospital, surrounded by young cancer patients. He took the opportunity to call on governments to offer free health care to all.

Francisco was later seen greeting elderly patients in the hospital corridor, moving around in a wheelchair.

The Vatican said Francis especially prayed for those confined to their beds and unable to return home.

“May they live this opportunity, even when they feel pain, to open tenderly to their sick brothers or sisters in the next bed, with whom they share the same human fragility”the Vatican said in its statement Tuesday.

When he was young, the Argentine pope had part of a lung removed, but other than that he has been in good health.

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