UPDATE: Surgeon provides details on Cardinal Sarah's robot-assisted surgery

CNA 54b51b37ea707 44754 Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in Rome on Nov. 25, 2014./ Paul Badde.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the retired prefect of the Vatican's liturgy office, underwent robot-assisted surgery on his prostate earlier this month, according to a surgeon at the Italian hospital where the procedure took place.

The urological operation was performed with the help of the da Vinci robot, a technology in use since 2016 at the Great Metropolitan Hospital (GOM) in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southernmost point of the Italian peninsula.

The GOM's health director and a leading surgeon confirmed to CNA July 29 that Cardinal Sarah had been operated on and that he was released from the hospital on July 27, after around 15 days in their care.

Salvatore Costarella said the procedure was to correct a problem with the prostate.

Cardinal Sarah's choice of the Reggio Calabria hospital “means a lot because we have an excellent hospital,” Costarella said, adding that “for us it is a reason for particular pride to have such an eminent person in our hospital.”

Doctors said in a press conference Wednesday that the surgery was successful and, thanks to the robot technology, was able to be carried out in a minimally invasive way.

Sarah, 76, was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican before his retirement as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in February.

According to Intuitive Surgical, the American company which makes the da Vinci Surgical System, robot-assisted urological procedures are: prostate surgery, kidney surgery, surgery to relieve kidney blockage, cyst removal from the kidney, bladder surgery, and surgery to fix the tubes connecting the bladder to the kidneys.

Cardinal Sarah is reported to have several engagements requiring travel on his schedule in the coming months.

It was announced last week that he is expected attend the 32nd Youth Festival in Medjugorje Aug. 1-6.

He is also scheduled to be the main celebrant at one of the daily Masses at the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress, taking place in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest Sept. 5-12.

Sarah’s personal secretary is the Italian layman Lorenzo Festicini, president of the humanitarian association Istituto Nazionale Azzurro, and a native of Reggio Calabria, the city where the cardinal’s surgery took place.

“It is important to realize that in Reggio Calabria there are excellent European-level doctors and centers where you can be treated and undergo delicate operations with cutting-edge methods,” Festicini said in a July 28 press conference.

One of the doctors who assisted with the surgery, Domenico Veneziano, said the da Vinci robot “guarantees the maximum precision with more satisfactory results with respect to traditional surgery, and with really quick recovery times.”

Speaking at the press conference, Fr. Giulio Cerchietti, an official of the Congregation for Bishops, praised the hospital for combining “quality, professionalism, humanity, and dedication.”

“All this nourished the trust with which the cardinal entrusted himself to this hospital where he felt at home, where he smelled the scent of homemade bread,” Cerchietti continued.

The priest added: “The first day he arrived, accustomed to taking notes, he wrote the phrase of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus: ‘Love has brought you here. Love will take care of you.’ The cardinal experienced the depth of these words here with you. We are grateful and you are in our prayers.”

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According to the manufacturer, there are nearly 6,000 da Vinci systems used in 67 countries around the world.

There are 105 medical centers in Italy which use the medical robot, according to the Italian website “Urologia Robotica da Vinci.” The GOM is the only hospital in Calabria with the technology.


This story was updated at 9:17 a.m. MDT to clarify when Cardinal Sarah's surgery took place and the nature of his ailment.

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