The Pope faces operation today

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The Independent Online
ROME (AP) - The Pope underwent final testing for an intestinal ailment yesterday as Italian news reports said his doctors had ordered surgery, probably for today.

Joaquin Navarro, the Vatican spokesman, refused to confirm an operation was scheduled. He said doctors were finishing their tests yesterday afternoon and would issue a communique today.

State-run RAI television, citing reliable but unidentified sources, said in the evening that two operations will have to be performed for a tumour in the sigmoid tract of the large intestine. That tract is where the colon bends before the last part of the intestine ends in the rectum. RAI said one operation would be done early today and a second operation to reconstruct the bowel section at a later time. The Italian news agency Ansa, citing unidentified hospital sources, said the 72-year-old Pope has a benign, or non-cancerous colon tumour.

In the days since the Pope walked into the hospital on Sunday night after announcing his medical troubles to a startled crowd that had gathered in St Peter's Square to hear his Sunday message, he has been deluged with notes from well-wishers, including the former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and President George Bush. One message arrived from Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who is in prison after trying to kill the Pope. The text was not released. The Italian President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, sent a basket of pink roses.