Pope Francis expected in Rome for Easter celebrations despite concerns about his health

After canceling his participation in the Stations of the Cross “to preserve his health”, Friday March 29, Pope Francis is expected in Rome on Saturday evening for the Easter Vigil

Pope Francis expected in Rome for Easter celebrations despite concerns about his health

After canceling his participation in the Stations of the Cross “to preserve his health”, Friday March 29, Pope Francis is expected in Rome on Saturday evening for the Easter Vigil. The 87-year-old pontiff is due to preside over the Easter vigil at St. Peter's Basilica, in the presence of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, before mass on Sunday morning and the urbi et orbi blessing, broadcast on Mondovision.

His presence on Saturday was confirmed by the Vatican at midday, despite the cancellation on Friday evening, at the last minute, of his arrival at the Stations of the Cross, at the Colosseum.

This cancellation – which occurred a few moments before the start of the ceremony, forcing the organizers to hastily remove the pope's chair – and the laconic communication from the Vatican helped to revive questions about the failing health of Jorge Bergoglio. “The Stations of the Cross of the fragile Pope,” headlined the daily La Stampa on Saturday, while Il Messaggero saw it as a “renunciation of Francis.”

“Measure of caution”

“This is a simple measure of prudence,” a Vatican source had clarified to Agence France-Presse, assuring that the health of the pope, who appeared “in good shape” in recent hours, did not give rise to any “no particular concerns,” according to her. The Argentine Jesuit had already canceled his participation in the Stations of the Cross in 2023, but this decision followed a three-day hospitalization for bronchitis and had been communicated in advance.

A central pillar of the Catholic calendar, Holy Week, which involves numerous ceremonies ending with Easter, can be compared to a marathon for the Pope, who has been traveling in a wheelchair for two years. In recent days, the Bishop of Rome had honored his commitments to the point of presiding as planned over the office of the Passion of Christ for nearly two hours on Friday afternoon.

But he recently appeared tired and had been forced on several occasions to delegate the reading of his speeches, citing bronchitis, for which he had undergone examinations in a hospital in Rome at the end of February. His age and precarious health seem to be catching up with him: he has not traveled since his visit to Marseille in September and had to cancel his trip to Dubai for COP28 in December due to bronchitis.

Since his election in 2013 by the cardinals gathered in conclave, Francis has always left “the door open” to a possible renunciation, in line with his predecessor Benedict XVI. But in an autobiography published in mid-March, he reiterated that he had no “serious reason” to renounce his office, a “remote hypothesis” which would only be justified in the event of “serious physical impediment”.