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Pope continues recovery working, resting

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ROME — As Pope Francis continued a smooth recovery at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, he was back to work and shared a Sunday meal with his closest collaborators, the Vatican said.

His post-operative recovery, after undergoing abdominal surgery June 7, “continues to be normal,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, in a statement June 12.

“Pope Francis continues to feed himself normally,” Bruni wrote, adding that the pope received the Eucharist that morning and started the day “devoted to work.”

The day before, June 11, the pope “was able to walk a few steps,” Bruni wrote. He spent a few hours working throughout the day, taking breaks to rest and to pray, he added.

The pope also had some “respiratory physiotherapy” and continued to move around, he added.

That Sunday morning, “he watched the Holy Mass live on television and received the Eucharist. He then went to the small chapel in the private apartment, where he gathered in prayer for the recitation of the Angelus,” Bruni had said June 11.

He then had lunch in the hospital’s papal apartment with some of the people assisting him during his recovery: doctors, medical assistants, nurses, support staff and personnel from the Vatican gendarmes.

On the advice of his doctors, Pope Francis did not publicly pray the Sunday Angelus from the balcony of Rome’s Gemelli hospital. While his recovery was proceeding normally, the pope’s medical team had strongly advised him to skip the public event to reduce as much strain as possible on his abdominal wall.

The pope underwent a three-hour surgery under general anesthesia for a hernia June 7. The procedure included placing a surgical mesh to prevent the recurrence of a hernia and the removal of several adhesions, which were bands of scar tissue formed after previous surgeries decades ago, according to Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope.

He explained in a news conference at Gemelli hospital June 10 that too much strain on the muscles caused by excessive movement could tear the mesh, which would require another operation to repair.

“We’ve asked him to make this sacrifice; for him it is a sacrifice not to (publicly) recite the Angelus,” Alfieri had said.

Also speaking at the news conference, Bruni had said that Catholics were invited to join the pope spiritually in prayer.

While the pope did not appear on the balcony, a small group of people gathered to pray outside the hospital June 11, according to Vatican News.

The Vatican also released a copy of a letter from Pope Francis in response to a note sent to him by nurses and staff who work in the hospital’s pediatric neuropsychiatry ward.

In the typewritten letter, dated June 10, the pope told them they were “saints next door” and an example of the church as “field hospital.” He recognized the trauma they experience — and wrote to him about — in seeing some of their young patients die and the suffering it causes the deceased child’s loved ones.

“You are witnesses of life as well as death, and so you are called to give comfort and consolation during those last minutes, accompanying these little ‘angels’ to the threshold of their encounter with the Lord,” he said.

The pope invited them to continue to be “good Samaritans,” who carry the burdens of life and the pain of others, and to “cultivate a culture of closeness and tenderness.”

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