After three days of treatment for bronchitis, Pope Francis will leave the hospital on Saturday and return to the Vatican, where he will lead a Palm Sunday Mass the following day to mark the start of Easter celebrations.
On Friday, the 86-year-old Argentine Jesuit made a surprise visit to the children’s oncology ward at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, bringing chocolate eggs, rosaries and books to the children.
François also baptized a baby born a few weeks later. In the video and photos released by the Vatican, we see the Pope sprinkling holy water on the newborn’s head, writing on a piece of paper, smiling and leaning on a walker.
After two days of media rumours, the Vatican confirmed that the Pope would leave the hospital on Saturday and lead a Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Square. The festival marks the beginning of the Holy Week leading up to the Easter celebrations, the main highlight of the year for Catholics.
The Bishop of Rome, who was hospitalized on Wednesday due to shortness of breath, soon recovered and returned to work on Thursday.
Francis, who is chronically ill and uses a wheelchair due to knee pain, was staying in a private papal residence on the 10th floor of Gemelli University Hospital in 1981.
“There is no doubt that he exaggerated it. But he is a strong man and I think he will win,” Giuseppe, a 43-year-old tour guide, told AFP on Friday in Place Saint-Pierre. “This is good news because (…) without the Pope Celebrating Easter is impossible.”
The Bishop of Rome had already been hospitalized for ten days in July 2021 at Gemelli Hospital for serious colon surgery. He admits to having “after effects” from the anesthesia, which has led him to rule out knee surgery so far.
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The pain from this arthritis, which forced him to cancel several meetings in 2022 and postpone a trip to Africa in particular, is at the center of speculation about his possible refusal.
The head of the Catholic Church has always kept the door open to this possibility. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, stepped down in 2013, taking the world by surprise.
After hinting at the possibility of “resigning himself” in July, he ruled in February that the “resignation” of a pope “must not become a fashion.” .
The Pope is constantly monitored by a team of caretakers at the Vatican and during his trips abroad.
Due to the serious medical history behind him, the precaution is very necessary: at the age of 21, he almost died of pleurisy and partially removed a lung.