By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis returned to the Vatican on Wednesday, 11 days after undergoing surgery at a Rome hospital to remove part of his colon.
A Reuters witness saw the pope get out of the car after the vehicle passed through the Vatican gates.
A Vatican source said that before returning, the pope stopped to pray at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Francisco usually does this after each trip abroad to thank Our Lady.
Earlier, photographers at Gemelli Hospital saw two cars escorted by Vatican security go through a side exit shortly after 11 am local time (6 am EDT) after officials placed a wheelchair in the trunk of one of the vehicles.
The first of the two cars had tinted windows.
The 84-year-old pope had part of his colon removed on 4 July. On Sunday, he made his first public appearance since surgery, standing for about 10 minutes as he spoke from the balcony of his suite.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Vatican released five photos of the pope during an earlier visit to children in the hospital’s cancer treatment ward, which is on the same floor as his suite.
The images showed the pope apparently in good condition as he walked unaided down the ward corridor, greeting children, parents and doctors. In photos released on Sunday, he travels in a wheelchair while visiting patients.
Francis has no appointments scheduled for the rest of this month, except for his Sunday blessings, but the Vatican plans a papal trip to Slovakia and Hungary’s capital Budapest in mid-September.
On Monday, Scottish bishops announced that the pope will attend the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November, if his health permits. He is also expected to visit Malta and Cyprus in the same month.
(Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino)
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