VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis presided at one service on Good Friday, but was ordered by doctors to skip an outdoor evening “Way of the Cross” procession after being hospitalised last week for bronchitis.
The 86-year-old pontiff sat through a “Passion of the Lord” service in St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday afternoon, listening to three cantors and a choir recount in Latin the last hours in the life of Jesus.
He also heard a sermon by the preacher of the papal household. As is customary at such liturgies, he did not deliver a homily. Francis showed no sign of discomfort, although he coughed several times during the service.
Francis spent four days in hospital last week for the treatment of bronchitis after complaining of breathing difficulties. He recovered quickly with antibiotic therapy.
The Vatican announced earlier that Francis would for the first time since his election in 2013 skip a Via Crucis procession.
Francis was due to follow the service - held at Rome’s Colosseum and usually lasting more than two hours - from his residence.
The temperature in Rome was expected to fall to about 10 degrees Celsius on Friday evening. The temperature has fallen in recent days and a light snow fell on Rome’s outskirts on Thursday.
During the traditional service, the pope sits outdoors near the upper section of the Colosseum while participants process around the ancient monument.
The participants stop to pray and hear meditations at the 14 “Stations of the Cross”, which commemorate the events in the last hours of the life of Jesus, starting with his arrest and ending with his burial.
The pope, who appeared fine at two services on Thursday, usually makes impromptu remarks to thousands of people at the end of the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum.
The Vatican did not announce any changes to the rest of the pope’s Holy Week schedule.
He is due to preside at an Easter vigil Mass on Saturday night in St. Peter’s Basilica, and on Easter Sunday he is due to deliver his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message in St. Peter’s Square.
The Easter Sunday blessing is held from the basilica’s outdoor central balcony at noon.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Good Friday event which the pope was forced to skip was moved to the Vatican and held in a slimmed-down version, but Francis presided.
The last pope to skip a Good Friday Way of the Cross service was Pope John Paul II. Failing health prevented him from leaving the Vatican in the last weeks of his life in 2005.