The Vatican on Thursday released the first pictures of Pope Francis after his abdominal surgery, indicating that the pontiff was continuing his recovery ahead of an expected discharge in the coming days.
The pictures showed Francis in a wheelchair, visiting the cancer ward for children at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, which is next to the room where he has been convalescing for more than a week.
The pope, who at the age of 86 underwent a three-hour operation to repair an abdominal hernia on June 7 at the Gemelli, is expected to be discharged in the next few days, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
His engagements have been cancelled until June 18.
The pope traditionally takes all of July off, with the Sunday blessings being his only public appearance, so he will have the entire month to rest before he is due to make a trip to Portugal from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6 for World Youth Day and to visit the Shrine of Fatima.
He also is still scheduled to visit Mongolia from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has ordered Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the private secretary and long-time aide of the late Pope Benedict, to return to his native Germany by the end of the month without any new assignment, the Vatican said on Thursday.
A Vatican statement put an end to speculation about what role Gaenswein, a powerful figure in the Vatican for more than a decade before Francis sidelined him after a personal falling out, would have in the Church.
Former Pope Benedict died on Dec. 31, nearly a decade after he resigned in 2013, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.