The 86-year-old pontiff sounded a little breathless and hoarse at times, but he frequently gestured with his hands for emphasis, occasionally interrupted his prepared speech and clearly seemed happy to be back in his rut.
While the thousands of Romans, tourists and pilgrims who regularly turn up for the pope’s weekly appearance at a window of the Apostolic Palace applaud when they spot the pope at the window, this time the audience’s applause seemed louder than usual. The three-hour operation under general anesthesia had forced Francis to miss the appearance on Sunday 11 June.
While his mood seemed relieved to see the crowds below, including nuns waving flags and tourists in sun hats on the hot, humid day, Francis sombered when he noted that Tuesday is World Refugee Day, a occasion promoted by the United Nations.
« With great sadness and much pain I think of the victims of the very serious shipwreck that took place in recent days off the coast of Greece », said Francis. He was referring to the smugglers’ overcrowded fishing boat, loaded with hundreds of migrants, that sank in the Mediterranean Sea last week.
« It seems that the sea was calm, » said Francesco, apparently expressing perplexity that such a serious tragedy could happen in those conditions.
« I renew my prayers for all those who have lost their lives, and I implore that, always, everything possible be done to avoid similar tragedies, » the pontiff said.
Some of the 104 survivors said there were as many as 750 aboard, leaving the possibility that hundreds more would die. Greek rescuers recovered 78 bodies. Doubts persist as to whether the Greek coastguard intervened in time to prevent the capsizing.
He also prayed for the young students « victims of the brutal attack » at a school in western Uganda. An attack by suspected insurgents on a school in Uganda has killed 42 people, including 38 students in their dormitories. Several were kidnapped near the Congo border.
Francis lamented “this struggle, this war everywhere. Let’s pray for peace ».
He also urged people to remember the « martyrs in Ukraine » following last year’s Russian invasion.
As he concluded his remarks and was about to leave the window, shouts of « Lunga vita al papa » in Italian rose from the crowd, and the pope quickly replied, « Thank you. »
The pope’s doctors have urged him to take it as easy as possible even as he resumes his Vatican workload. Francis will receive the president of Brazil on Wednesday afternoon, the Vatican has announced. But to ensure that his convalescence can proceed well, Francis will not lead the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
In early August, Francis will make a pilgrimage to Portugal for a youth meeting. At the end of that month he flies to Mongolia for a visit that will see him be the first pontiff to go to that Asian country.