Pope Francis presides over Palm Sunday after hospital stay

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will preside at Mass in St Peter’s Square on Sunday (2 April) as he begins the events leading up to Easter, just a day after leaving the hospital after an illness bronchi.

The 86-year-old’s hospitalization Wednesday with shortness of breath raised concerns that he may not be well enough to attend a series of ceremonies during the most important week in the Christian calendar.

But when the smiling Francis left Rome’s Gemelli hospital on Saturday after a three-night stay, he told people of good will that he would preside over a Palm Sunday service, followed by the Angelus.

Although his voice was weak at times, when asked how he felt, he quipped twice: “I am still alive!”

Palm Sunday marks the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Easter Sunday April 12 celebrates His resurrection from the dead.

The head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics has suffered from increasing health problems over the past few years, including a knee problem that has kept him in use of a wheelchair and cane.

During both Palm Sunday and Easter Mass, Francis is expected to sit still while a cardinal conducts the ceremony at the altar.

The Vatican said it was an arrangement approved before the pope’s latest illness, as he could no longer stand for long periods of time.

Pope Francis felt unwell on Wednesday after a general audience in St Peter’s Square, but his condition improved after he was given antibiotics.

This is his second hospitalization since 2021, when he underwent colon surgery, also at Gemelli.

His growing health problems over the past year have raised widespread concern, including speculation that he may choose to retire rather than stay at work for life.

Pope Francis marked 10 years as head of the global Catholic Church earlier this month.

He has pushed for major governance reforms and sought to create a more open, compassionate Church, although he has faced internal opposition, especially from conservatives.

He has repeatedly said he would consider resigning if his health let him down – but last month he said that, for now, he has no plans to quit.

Francis’ previous stay at Gemelli in July 2021 lasted 10 days. He was hospitalized after suffering a type of diverticulitis, an inflammation of the pouch that develops in the lining of the intestine, requiring surgery.

In an interview in January, the pope said diverticulitis had returned.

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