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Pope to leave hospital, take part in Palm Sunday services, Vatican says

Television cameras opposite Gemelli hospital on Friday. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
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ROME — Pope Francis is expected to depart on Saturday the Rome hospital where he was admitted this week and to take part in this weekend’s Palm Sunday service in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican announced.

The pope is one of the oldest heads of the Catholic Church in history, and his sudden hospitalization before Easter week celebrations drew widespread concern and speculation about his health.

The 86-year-old pontiff was taken to Rome’s largest hospital, Gemelli, for bronchitis on Wednesday. The Vatican spokesman said he responded well to antibiotics, enjoyed pizza Thursday night with the staff and was working from his private rooms at the hospital.

“I can confirm that, since he is scheduled to leave the hospital tomorrow, Pope Francis is expected to be present in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday for the Eucharistic celebration of Palm Sunday, the Passion of the Lord,” Matteo Bruni said in a statement Friday.

“In the morning today, after having breakfast, he read some newspapers and resumed his work,” he said. “The return to Santa Marta of His Holiness is expected tomorrow, awaiting the outcome of this morning’s most recent tests.” Santa Marta is the Vatican City guesthouse where the pope resides.

The Vatican initially said Francis was at the hospital for a previously scheduled health checkup. But a later statement clarified that he was having breathing difficulties.

While at the hospital, the pope went to the pediatric oncology ward to visit with the children there and hand out chocolate eggs and rosaries. Photos released by Vatican Media showed him blessing an infant a few weeks old after baptizing him.

This is a hugely busy time of year for Francis, who traditionally presides over many Holy Week and Easter observances, including a candlelit procession on Good Friday at the Colosseum in central Rome.

The pope, who had part of a lung removed when he was a young man, has suffered from increasing health issues in recent years. In 2021, he was admitted to the same hospital in Rome for an operation to remove part of his colon. Chronic knee pain has prompted the use of a wheelchair and a walking stick.

“When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God,” the pope’s Twitter account said Friday.

Adam reported from London. Miriam Berger in Washington contributed to this report.