Vatican City, Rome —  Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of millions of Catholics around the world, has undergone successful abdominal surgery at the age of 86. The Vatican announced on Wednesday that the three-hour operation was performed without complications and that the Pope is expected to remain in the hospital for about 10 days. The procedure, known as a laparotomy, involved general anesthesia and was aimed at repairing a hernia that was causing recurrent and worsening symptoms.

Despite the success of the surgery, concerns remain over the Pope’s fragile health. Just last month, he had to cancel several work commitments after being debilitated by a fever, and earlier this year, he was hospitalized for bronchitis. However, the Vatican had said that he responded well to antibiotics, and upon leaving the hospital, the Pope made light of the situation by joking that he was “still alive.”

This latest health scare has once again highlighted the challenges facing the Catholic Church should the Pope become incapacitated. Unlike other political leaders who have designated a vice president or successor, there is no “vice pope” in the Catholic system who can exercise the Pope’s authority in his absence. While the Vatican’s secretary of state can oversee routine day-to-day management, he has no authority to make major decisions such as appointing bishops or creating or suppressing dioceses around the world.

In an interview with the Spanish daily ABC in December, Pope Francis made a revelation that he had prepared a letter of resignation in case of permanent medical incapacity right after he was elected in 2013. He wrote the letter several years ago and entrusted it to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who resigned from his position in 2013. Pope Francis has established himself as a more progressive leader than his predecessors during his decade-long tenure as the head of the Catholic Church. He has been vocal in his support for the LGBTQ community and peace-building efforts in Ukraine. Moreover, he has taken strict measures to suppress clerical sexual abuse and conducted historic visits to some countries, including Myanmar, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Pope Francis’ health has been a concern in recent years. In 2019, he underwent ocular surgery to treat a cataract, and he struggled with chronic sciatica pain, which had largely confined him to using a cane or wheelchair. Moreover, he had part of one lung removed as a young man after a severe bout of pneumonia, and in 2021, he had surgery to remove half of his colon.

The Pope’s recent surgery is likely related to the colon surgery he underwent last year, according to medical sources. While the Vatican has said that he is expected to make a full functional recovery, the world is praying for a speedy and complete recovery. Millions of Catholics worldwide look up to Pope Francis as a spiritual leader, and his message of peace, compassion, and social justice resonates with people of all faiths and beliefs. As he recovers, we wish him well and hope that he continues to inspire and lead people toward a better future.

Pope Francis’ recent successful surgery highlights the importance of good health and proper medical care. While his delicate health is a concern for millions of Catholics worldwide, it’s reassuring to know that he has taken measures to ensure that the Catholic Church can continue functioning in case of his permanent medical incapacity. As he recovers, people of all faiths and beliefs are praying for his complete and speedy recovery.

Throughout his tenure, Pope Francis has been a strong advocate for social justice, peace-building, and promoting equality. His message of love, compassion, and acceptance has resonated with people worldwide, making him one of the most popular spiritual leaders of our time.

While there are challenges facing the Catholic Church, including concerns over declining membership and increasing secularization, Pope Francis’ leadership has inspired many people to stay engaged and committed to their faith.

As we look toward the future, we hope that his message of peace, acceptance, and compassion continues to guide us toward a more just and equitable world.