July 11 (UPI) -- Pope Francis appeared for the first time in public after undergoing surgery for colon diverticulitis seven days ago, speaking from a hospital window for his weekly Angelus prayer.
The 84-year-old pontiff spoke from a balcony of the Gemelli University Hospital in Rome where he is recovering.
"I am happy to be able to keep the Sunday appointment of the Angelus, even here from the Gemelli Polyclinic," he said. "I have deeply felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Francis expressed "my appreciation and my encouragement to the doctors and all healthcare workers and hospital staff." And he asked people to "pray for all the sick, especially for those in the most difficult conditions: may no one be left alone, may everyone receive the anointing of listening, closeness and care."
He noted the importance of healthcare for everyone.
"In these days of being hospitalized I've experienced once again how important a good health care is, accessible to all, as it is in Italy and in other countries. A health care system that is free, that assures good service accessible to everyone," he said.
The pope entered Rome's Gemelli hospital last Sunday, hours after conducting the traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square. The procedure was "a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic stenotic diverticulitis."
The condition, which is common a people age, is an inflammation caused when people develop small sacs in the walls of the colon, and are called diverticuli. It can cause discomfort and, sometimes, bleeding.
The Vatican said he is expected to be released from hospital in the next few days.
On Saturday, a spokesperson for the Holy See said the pontiff is gradually resuming work. He is walking, his blood tests are "satisfactory" and "he is continuing the prescribed treatment. He is expected to be released from hospital in the next few days.