The Pope's new doctor is an expert in liver disease, surgical medicine

By Elise Harris

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Pope Francis leads the Bishops of Italy in a solemn Profession of Faith in St. Peter's Basilica for their 65th General Assembly May 23, 2013. Credit: Stephen Drsicoll/CNA.

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has selected Professor Fabrizio Soccorsi – an expert in liver diseases and surgical medicine – as his new personal doctor, who will accompany Francis on his upcoming trip to the United States and Cuba.

The Pope’s choice comes after he decided at the end of May not to renew the term of his former doctor – Patrizio Polisca – as papal doctor and head of the Vatican’s healthcare services, leaving his position open as of Aug. 1.

Soccorsi, 73, is the Emeritus Chief of Hepatology at the San Camillo Hospital in Rome and is an adviser of Health and Hygiene for the Governorate of Vatican City. He is also an expert on the Medical Committee for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

Since St. John Paul II's pontificate, it has been customary that the position as director of the Vatican City State’s healthcare facilities was tied to the post of the Pope’s personal doctor. However, Francis has branched out from the tradition by selecting a new doctor who is not in charge of the Vatican healthcare system.

Born Feb. 2, 1942 in Rome, Soccorsi graduated from Rome’s La Sapienza University in 1968 with a degree in Medicine and Surgery, and received his license to practice the following year.

Following a full professional teaching career, he was appointed Chief of the Department for Hepatology and Director of the Department for Illnesses of the Liver, the Digestive System and Nutrition and of the Department of Internal and Specialized Medicine at the San Camillo Forlanini Hospital in Rome.

He has taught immunology at the Medical School hospital in Rome as well as throughout Italy’s Lazio Region, taking ongoing education classes on liver diseases at San Camillo.

The doctor was eventually named Chair of Clinical Medicine and Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery for his alma mater, Sapienza University.

Soccorsi also formed numerous collaborations and consultations in the public sector, authoring more than one hundred publications and scientific contributions.

He is currently a consultant of Health and Hygiene of the Governorate of the Vatican City State and an expert on the Medical Committee for the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

The Pope’s appointment of his new doctor comes just over a month before he leaves for Cuba Sept. 19. He’ll stay in the country until the 22nd, when he’ll travel to the United States from the 22-27. Soccorsi will accompany Francis for the entirety of the trip.

Although Francis’ former doctor, Polisca, will no longer serve as papal doctor, he will continue in his role both as Benedict XVI’s personal doctor and as president of the medical commission for the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

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