Pope Francis: health condition and Gemelli hospital stay explained, who is the current pope - will he resign?

The current pope revealed he had signed a letter of renunciation shortly after his appointment in 2013

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Pope Francis is back in hospital - two years after he had 13 inches of his colon removed.

This time, the 86-year-old has arrived at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for surgery on his intestine and will be under general anaesthesia. He is expected to be in hospital for several days, the Vatican has said. It added the procedure was a “laparotomy and abdominal wall plastic surgery with prosthesis” to treat a “recurrent, painful and worsening” constriction of the intestine.

A laparotomy is open abdominal surgery. It can help a surgeon both diagnose and treat issues. But just who is the current pope, how old is he, and could he similarly follow in his predecessor’s footsteps by giving up office ahead of his death? Here is everything you need to know.

Who is the current Pope?

Pope Francis is the current serving pope, and has held office at the Vatican since the 2013 retirement of his predecessor, the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Francis’ past jobs include a bouncer and a janitor, before he was inspired to join the Society of Jesus after recovering from an illness.

He became an ordained priest in 1969, working his way up to Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and was appointed a Cardinal in 2001. He was selected as Pope Benedict’s successor in 2013 and adopted the name Francis, in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi.

He is the first ever Pontiff from the Americas, and the first to come from the southern hemisphere.

Pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2022 (Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)Pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2022 (Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2022 (Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)

How is Pope Francis’ health?

Francis was back at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for surgery on his intestine on Wednesday (7 June). He went in for tests the day before but no further details have been released at this time.

In January, Francis said some of the symptoms, including bulges in his intestinal wall known as diverticulosis, which led to the 2021 surgery had returned. He appeared in 'good form' before going into hospital, reports PA.

His hospital admission is the first since he had 13-inches of colon removed and spent 10 days at Gemelli hospital in July 2021. He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally, but in a January interview with the Associated Press, Francis said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned”.

Before he was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, the Pope had appeared in relatively good form during his regular general audience, although he grimaced while getting in and out of the “popemobile”.

Francis has used a wheelchair for more than a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture, although he had recently been walking more with a cane. He has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he did not respond well to general anaesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

How old is Pope Francis?

Pope Francis is currently 86 years old. He celebrated his most recent birthday on 17 December 2022. That makes him one year older than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was when he retired due to his “advanced age”.

Will he retire?

Typically, Popes don’t resign, and hold office until their eventual death. When the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stood down in 2013, he was the first pontiff to do so for 600 years. But could Pope Francis also end his term as Catholic leader early?

As it stands, there’s no real concrete evidence to suggest he may do so. But speculation ran rife in December 2022, when it was revealed that Francis had written a letter of resignation soon after being chosen as pope in 2013, as a precaution in the event he would one day be unable to perform his duties due to illness.

When asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC what would happen if a pope was incapacitated by illness or an accident, Francis admitted he had “already signed” his renunciation. “I signed it and said: ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. Here you have it,”’ he said.

Pope Francis has commented on resignation in the past too, stating that he had a feeling his time at the Vatican would be relatively brief.