ROME — A chipper-sounding Pope Francis was discharged Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, quipping to journalists before being driven away that he’s “still alive.”
Francis, 86, was hospitalized at Gemelli Polyclinic on Wednesday following his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square after reportedly experiencing breathing difficulties. The pontiff received antibiotics administered intravenously during his stay, the Vatican said.
In a sign of his improved health, the Vatican released details of Francis’ Holy Week schedule. It said he would preside at this weekend’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square and at an outdoor Easter Mass on April 9. A Vatican cardinal will be at the altar to celebrate both Masses, a recent practice due to the pontiff having a troublesome knee issue.
But Francis is expected to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass, which this year will be held in a juvenile prison in Rome. Still unclear was whether he would attend the late-night, torch-lit Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum to mark Good Friday
Before departing Gemelli Polyclinic late Saturday morning, Francis had an emotional moment with a Rome couple whose 5-year-old daughter died Friday night at the Catholic hospital. Outside, Serena Subania, mother of Angelica, sobbed as she pressed her head into the chest of the pope, who held her close and whispered words of comfort.
Francis seemed eager to linger with well-wishers. When a boy showed him his arm cast, the pope made a gesture as if to ask “Do you have a pen?” Three papal aides whipped out theirs. Francis took one of the pens and added his signature to the child’s already well-autographed cast.
The pontiff answered in a low voice that was close to a whisper when reporters peppered him with questions, indicating he had felt unwell — “I felt sick,” he said, pointing to his mid-section — a symptom that convinced his medical staff to take him to the hospital Wednesday.
Asked how he felt now, Francis joked, “Still alive, you know.” He gave a thumbs-up sign.