Pope Francis was discharged on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, quipping to journalists before being driven away: “I’m still alive.”
On Wednesday, the 86-year-old pontiff was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic hospital – where he was being treated with antibiotics administered intravenously for bronchitis. The Vatican said the pontiff was treated with . The Vatican added Francis had experienced difficult breathing in days leading up to his hospitalization.
The Vatican said that before departing, Francis hugged a couple whose daughter died Friday night at the hospital.
Francis sat in the front seat of the white Fiat 500 car that drove him away from Gemelli Polyclinic.
The pontiff’s hospitalization has led to worldwide concern about the pope’s health. In a Friday statement, however, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said that Francis’ recovery has been “normal.”
“Yesterday (went) well, with a normal clinical recovery,” Bruni said. On Thursday evening “Pope Francis had dinner, eating a pizza, together with all those who are assisting him in these days of the hospital stay.”
Annamaria Montio, a physiotherapist student at Gemelli, told the New York Times that Francis was in good hands at the hospital.
“I am sure he’s going to make it – he has such a strong spirit,” Montio told the outlet.
The spokesperson later added that, if the pope returns to the Vatican as expected on Saturday, he will be present St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass – which marks the start of the Holy Week celebrations leading up to Easter.
Francis’ expected participation in Holy Week
Bruni did not specify Francis’ expected participation in the upcoming Palm Sunday Mass – including whether the pope would deliver a homily during the ceremony, which is a long service, or if someone else might read it for him.
Due to a chronic knee problem, Francis had already largely stopped celebrating Mass at major Catholic Church holy days – but has continued to preside at the ceremonies and deliver homilies.
On Friday, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said Francis would be able to preside over – but not celebrate – Holy Week ceremonies.
The Holy Week appointments include a late night Way of the Cross procession marked by prayers on Good Friday at the Colosseum in Rome and Easter Mass on April 9, traditionally followed by a long papal speech from St. Peter’s Basilica.
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Pope expresses thanks for messages of support
In a Thursday tweet, Francis expressed thanks for prayers directed toward his health.
“I am touched by the many messages received in these hours and I express my gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the pope wrote.
This week has marked Francis’ first hospitalization since July 2021, when the pope spent 10 days at Gemelli to have 13 inches of his colon removed.
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Contributing: The Associated Press. Ella Lee, USA TODAY.