For much of his pontificate, Pope Francis, 84, has carried on at the pace of a much younger man. He eschews weekend breaks. He packs his mornings with meetings. He takes breakneck international trips — with day after day of pre-sunrise alarms — that often seem to leave his traveling party more exhausted than he is.
But this week, Francis was slowed to a halt, hospitalized for colon surgery to address a potentially painful bowel condition that is common among the elderly.
The Vatican says Francis is progressing well after a pre-scheduled operation. He ran a fever Wednesday night, but that had resolved by morning, and subsequent scans and exams did not detect an infection, the Vatican said.
Yet in Rome and in Catholic circles around the world, what is expected to be a week-long hospitalization has served as a reminder that the pope is reaching an age when people deal more frequently with health problems and become more vulnerable.
For some Catholics, this week’s events have brought urgency to a set of questions that previously seemed at a remove: questions about how Francis will manage his papacy as he nears the second half of his 80s; how long he’ll continue in the role; and whether he might one day step down.