The pope is fine, don’t worry. After three days of treatment for bronchitis, Pope Francis came out of the hospital in good shape on Saturday morning to prepare for the Easter celebrations. “I am still alive”, launched the pontiff, descended for a few moments from his small white Fiat. Visibly in good shape, happy joking with the many faithful and journalists massed around the Roman establishment, before returning to the Vatican.
On Wednesday, the Vatican said he was going to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for scheduled check-ups, before admitting he had been having difficulty breathing and was suffering from a “respiratory infection” requiring antibiotic treatment. The 86-year-old Argentinian Jesuit suffers from chronic health problems. He uses a wheelchair due to knee pain and underwent colon surgery in July 2021.
Present for Palm Sunday
On Friday, he made a surprise visit to the hospital’s pediatric oncology ward, bringing the children chocolate eggs, rosaries and books. François also baptized a newborn baby a few weeks old. On a video and photos released by the Vatican, we see the pope, smiling, leaning on a walker, writing on a paper and sprinkling holy water on the head of the newborn.
The pope is to preside over Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square. This ceremony marks the beginning of Holy Week preceding the celebrations of Easter, the main highlight of the year for Christians.
The bishop of Rome had already been hospitalized for ten days at the Gemelli hospital in July 2021 for a heavy colon operation. He admitted to having kept “after-effects” of the anesthesia, which led him to rule out knee surgery so far. The pain caused by this joint, which notably forced him to cancel several appointments in 2022 and to postpone a trip to Africa, is at the heart of conjecture on his possible renunciation.
The head of the Catholic Church has always left the door open to this possibility. His predecessor Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013, taking the world by surprise. After having mentioned in July the possibility of “putting oneself aside”, he had judged in February that the “resignation” of a pope should “not become a fashion”, ensuring that this hypothesis was “not on his agenda for the moment “.
The pope is constantly monitored by a team of caregivers, both in the Vatican and during his trips abroad. A precaution all the more necessary as he has a heavy medical history behind him: at 21, he almost died of pleurisy and suffered the partial removal of a lung.