Pope Francis on Sunday made his first public appearance since surgery last week, greeting well-wishers as he stood on a hospital balcony.
Francis, 84, has been steadily on the mend, according to the Vatican, following his July 4 scheduled surgery to remove a portion of his large intestine.
On Sunday, his voice sounded a bit weak as he greeted a small crowd outside Gemelli Polyclinic at noon. That is the hour when traditionally he would have appeared from a window at the Vatican overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
Francis said he “very much felt your closeness and the support of your prayers.”
“Thank you from my heart!” exclaimed the pontiff. He said his hospitalization was the opportunity to understand “how important a good health service is, accessible to all, as it is in Italy and other countries.”
“We mustn’t lose this precious thing,” the pope said, adding his appreciation and encouragement for all the health care workers and personnel at hospitals.
The crowd clapped in encouragement. He was flanked by a few young children on the balcony who are patients at the hospital.
Francis made his appearance from his 10th-floor specially outfitted papal apartment at the hospital.
He leaned on a lectern as he raised his hand in blessing.