ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis said Sunday that his recovery from his latest abdominal surgery is going well, stressing that he stopped speaking during his five-day trip to Portugal and spoke off the cuff not because he was tired or not feeling bad, but to better communicate with young people.
Francis was asked about his health on the way home from Lisbon, where he presided over the World Youth Day festival. It was his first trip since he was hospitalized in June for nine days after last-minute surgery to repair an abdominal hernia and remove intestinal scar tissue.
The trip, which came during a heat wave that sent temperatures to 40 degrees C (104F) in Lisbon, was notable because the 86-year-old pontiff strayed so often from his speeches, homilies and even prayers, which are usually worded months later. advanced and designed with specific events and audiences in mind.
One of the most notable deviations was a prayer for peace that Francis was supposed to have delivered at the Portuguese shrine of Fatima, famous precisely for its centuries-old connection to Russia’s exhortations for peace and conversion after World War I. .
Given Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, a papal prayer for peace at Fatima would have been one of the highlights of Francis’ visit, but also potentially problematic as the Vatican seeks relations with Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church. , which has strongly supported the invasion of the Kremlin.
Instead of delivering the prayer, Francis improvised his speech before the statue of the Virgin and skipped the peace prayer entirely, instead reciting a Hail Mary with disabled youth. The Vatican later posted part of the prayer on the @Pontifex handle on platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Asked why, Francis insisted on the way back to Rome that he had prayed silently for peace, but did not want to give “publicity” to a public prayer.
“I prayed! I prayed! I prayed to Our Lady and I prayed for peace. I did not advertise. But I did pray. And we have to continually repeat this prayer for peace.”
A Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Francis had originally wanted to travel to Fatima alone, with just a few gendarmes for a private visit, but had conceded to a proper visit. The official denied any ecclesiastical-diplomatic consideration in Francis’ decision-making, suggesting instead that the omission was part of an attempt to separate Fatima’s mystical-religious value from its Soviet and World War I history.
Francis, meanwhile, said he cut his other speeches short because he realized young people “don’t have a lot of attention” and he needed to engage them, not lecture them with long, complicated speeches or homilies, he said.
“Homilies can sometimes be torture,” he said. “Bla bla bla.”
He said the church must embrace a new idea of homilies that are “short and with a clear and loving message.”
On his recovery, Francis said that his abdominal stitches were removed, but he had to wear a protective belt for two to three months to make sure the incision healed well. “My health is good,” she said.
In other comments, Francis claimed that he included LGBTQ+ Catholics in his exhortation that “everyone, everyone, everyone” (everyone, everyone, everyone) is welcome in the Catholic Church. The comment became a kind of motto for this World Youth Day, reflecting his vision of an inclusive church, welcome to all.
“The church is mother,” he said. “Each of us encounters God in his own way in the church. And the church is mother, and guides each one on his way.
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