Pope thanks well-wishers after illness, presides over mass


VATICAN CITY (AFP):Pope Francis thanked those who prayed for him during his illness Sunday, after presiding over mass in St Peter’s Square, just a day after leaving hospital following a bout of bronchitis.

“I thank you for your participation and also for your prayers, which intensified during these past days. Thank you!”, he said.

The 86-year-old’s admittance to hospital on Wednesday with breathing difficulties sparked concerns he may not be well enough to attend a series of rites in the most important week in the Christian calendar.

But Francis had promised to be present, and he waved briefly to some 30,000 people as he rode in his popemobile through the square, which was adorned with over 35,000 plants and flowers.

He looked serious as he followed the procession through St Peter’s Square of religious figures, including red-robed cardinals, carrying large palm leaves and olive branches.

He blessed the palms, then walked a short way with the aid of a walking stick to the altar, where he sat while the ceremony was conducted by a cardinal.

The Vatican said this was an arrangement adopted prior to the pope’s latest illness, as the Argentine is no longer able to stand for long periods.

Francis, who had appeared pale at times, stood to say the Angelus at midday, and the crowds applauded as he thanked them for their prayers.

He then did a final round in the popemobile, waving and smiling.

Palm Sunday marks the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Easter Sunday, which this year is on April 9, celebrates his resurrection from the dead.

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