Pope Francis leads Palm Sunday services after leaving hospital

  • By Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News in London

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Pope Francis waves from a car as he leaves Rome’s Gemelli Hospital

Pope Francis presides in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, a day after leaving the hospital, to begin the events leading up to Easter.

When the 86-year-old left the hospital on Saturday, he confirmed that he would oversee the Palm Sunday ceremony followed by the Angelus prayer.

He joked that he was “still alive”.

“I felt a malaise, but I wasn’t scared,” Italian news agency Anza quoted him as saying.

After being discharged, the pontiff was seen smiling and waving from his car before addressing a crowd.

Instead of going home, his car drove past the Vatican and stopped at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. When he came out after praying, people in the street clapped and cheered: “Long live the Pope!”

During another stop, he got out of his vehicle to hand out chocolate Easter eggs to police officers, the Associated Press reported.

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Flanked by security guards, Pope Francis waves to people gathered outside his hospital in Rome.

Holy Week involves a busy schedule of events and services that can be physically demanding.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Friday that the pope is expected to attend this weekend’s Mass for Palm Sunday.

According to details released by the Vatican, he will also preside over the popular Easter Mass next Sunday.

The Argentine pontiff, who marked 10 years as head of the Catholic Church earlier this month, has struggled with health problems throughout his life, including having part of his lung removed at the age of 21.

He also used a wheelchair in recent months due to problems with his knees.

Wednesday’s hospitalization was the second since 2021, when he underwent colon surgery at Gemelli.

But in February the Pope visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The previous month, he presided over the funeral of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The pontiff, who has pushed for reforms in the Catholic Church, marked 10 years as its leader earlier this month.

Although he had previously said he would consider stepping down due to ill health, he recently confirmed that he has no plans to step down.

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WATCH: Pope comforts grieving parents as he leaves Gemelli Hospital

Pope’s schedule on Easter

April 2, Palm Sunday: 09:30 (07:30 GMT) Papal Mass, 12:00 Sunday Blessing

April 5: 09:00 Papal General Audience

April 6, Holy Thursday: 09:30 Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica

April 7, Good Friday: 17:00 Passion, 21:15 Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum

April 8, Holy Saturday: 20:30 Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica

April 9, Easter Sunday: 10:00 Easter Sunday Mass, 12:00 Urbi et Orbi in St. Peter’s Square

April 10, Easter Monday: 12:00, Baschetta in St. Peter’s Square

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