Pope Francis has been discharged from hospital, nine days after he underwent surgery to repair an abdominal hernia which was said to have developed painful scarring.
Francis, 86, left Rome's Gemelli hospital in a wheelchair, smiling and waving to reporters and well-wishers at the main entrance as he was taken to a waiting car.
Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon who operated on Francis on June 7 said the pope was well enough to travel, telling the crowd of reporters outside the hospital: "The pope is well. He's better than before," as the pontiff was being driven away.
As a precaution, the Vatican announced last week that all papal audiences were cancelled until 18 June. The pope traditionally takes all of July off, with the Sunday blessings being his only public appearances, so he will have next month to rest before the trips to Portugal and Mongolia in August.
Yesterday the Pope spent time with all the hospital staff who had cared for him during his stay. The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, said: "as an expression of gratitude the Pope received the entire operating team – consisting of the medical staff, nurses, social and health workers, and auxiliary staff – who coordinated and performed the operation on 7 June."
The Pope thanked all the medical personnel for their professionalism and their efforts "to alleviate the suffering of others, not only with medication, but also with tenderness and humanity."
The Pope also visited children on the cancer ward at the hospital, Mr Bruni said: "The Pope went to the Paediatric Oncology and Children's Neurosurgery ward where the young patients – who have expressed their affection to the Pope in recent days through numerous letters, drawings, and messages for a speedy recovery – are cared for."
He continued, "Pope Francis felt the pain of these children, who, together with their mothers and fathers, carry the suffering of the Cross on their shoulders every day. He presented each of them with a Rosary and a book."
The pontiff visited the same children's ward when he was last in the hospital before Holy Week, being treated for bronchitis.
with additional reporting by Premier News