Image: Pope with cast on wrist
L'Osservatore Romano via AP
Pope Benedict XVI thanks hospital staff after surgery on his right wrist in Aosta, Italy, on Friday.
updated 7/17/2009 8:00:32 PM ET 2009-07-18T00:00:32

Pope Benedict XVI underwent minor surgery on Friday after the 82-year-old pontiff slipped in the bath and broke his wrist while on vacation in northern Italy.

"He slipped in his bath this morning. He was taken to hospital for check-ups. It's nothing serious," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

As he left the hospital in the northern Italian city of Aosta on Friday afternoon, the German-born Catholic leader smiled broadly and waved to the crowd with his left hand. His right arm hung by his side, the cast hidden by his white vestments.

Doctors gave the pope a local anesthetic before operating on the fracture. The pontiff's wrist is expected to stay in a cast for about a month.

Earlier, Benedict had walked into the hospital himself for treatment for what the Vatican said was "a slight fracture to his right wrist." He is on vacation in a mountain chalet in nearby Les Combes.

Pope still celebrated mass
The Vatican said in a statement that before going to hospital, the pope "celebrated mass and had breakfast."

Tourists and visitors at the Vatican expressed concern about the pope's health, with Canadian Joey Shreider telling Reuters Television: "Thank God it is nothing serious."

"I'm very sorry to hear the Holy Father is injured, we'll be praying for him that he makes a quick and speedy full recovery," said Irish archbishop Dermot Clifford, visiting the Holy See.

Tiziano Trevisan, a spokesman at the Umberto Parini hospital in Aosta, said doctors had taken an X-ray of the pope's right wrist and found a small fracture.

Despite his age and a history of serious medical problems, the pope has been healthy during his five-year pontificate. He has kept to a busy schedule and traveled around the world.

"His general conditions are good," said his personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, in a Vatican medical bulletin issued after Benedict underwent surgery on his broken wrist.

In an interview with German media in 2006 Benedict said that "I've never felt strong enough to plan many long trips."

Since then, however, he has traveled to Australia, the United States, Brazil and most recently to two sub-Saharan African countries among his 12 foreign pilgrimages. While looking tired at times, he has always bounced back.

Pope's few health problems
The most serious issue in his medical record was a hemorrhagic stroke he acknowledged suffering in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, as well as a fall that knocked him unconscious in 1992. He has said he recovered without permanent damage from each incident.

Doctors in Aosta, Italy, where he was treated after the latest fall, took care emphasizing that the fall was accidental and not the result of a sudden illness.

And Dr. Amedeo Mancini, the orthopedic surgeon who performed Friday's operation, said the pope would suffer no long-term effects from the fracture and would be able to write and play the piano once the wrist heals. He said Benedict was an excellent patient.

Since Monday, Benedict has been vacationing at a chalet in the village of Les Combes in the Valle d'Aosta region near the French border.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, also spent several summer at Les Combes. While John Paul liked to hike, Benedict spends most of his time inside the chalet that looks out on Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.

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Video: Broken wrist puts pope in cast

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