Pope Francis joked: “I’m still alive” as he cheerfully left the hospital this morning after a three-night stay to treat bronchitis.
The 86-year-old pontiff was finally released from Rome’s Gemelli polyclinic, where he was admitted after experiencing breathing difficulties on Wednesday.
Before leaving, Francis stopped to greet well-wishers and smiled at the crowd, joking: “I’m still alive” when asked how he felt.
He was also seen hugging a desperate woman after her daughter died last night, according to the Vatican.
Then, as the crowd applauded, Francis rode up in the front seat of a white Fiat 500, ready to begin preparations for Holy Week and Easter – the most important week in the Christian calendar.
Pope Francis left the Gemelli Polyclinic this morning after a three-day stay
The 86-year-old pontiff hugged a couple whose daughter had died in hospital on Friday.
On the eve of his release, the Pope he visited the hospital’s children’s cancer ward, handed out chocolate Easter eggs and even baptized a weeks-old baby, according to a video released by the Vatican.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis had been working earlier Friday in the hospital’s private papal suite on the 10th floor and catching up on newspapers. On Thursday night, he had pizza with some of the hospital staff.
The Argentine Pope confirmed today that he will preside over the Palm Sunday mass in Saint Peter’s Square, the beginning of an intense week of events that precedes Easter.
Francis’ hospitalization was his second since 2021, when he underwent colon surgery, also at Gemelli.
His mounting health problems over the past year have sparked widespread concern, including speculation that he might choose to retire rather than stay on the job for life.
His predecessor, Benedict XVI, resigned in 2013, in a radical step not seen since the Middle Ages.
Visitors to St. Peter’s Square on Friday expressed their relief at his recovery.
“I was afraid for the Pope,” said a 56-year-old Italian tourist who gave his name as Davide.
“But I am happy that he is better, that he is back. For believers and the Catholic community, it’s important,’ she added.
The 86-year-old pontiff was admitted this Wednesday after experiencing respiratory difficulties
Pope Francis joked ‘I’m still alive’ as he cheerfully left the hospital this morning
Pope Francis hugged the woman and waved to the crowd before leaving in his car.
Francis marked 10 years as leader of the global Catholic Church earlier this month.
He has pushed through major government reforms and sought to forge a more open and compassionate Church, though he has faced internal opposition, particularly from conservatives.
– Preside at Mass – He has repeatedly said he would consider resigning if his health failed him – but said last month that, for now, he has no plans to resign.
During Mass on Palm Sunday, Francis is expected to remain seated while another cleric, likely a high-ranking cardinal, leads the ceremony at the altar.
The Vatican, citing medical staff, said Thursday that Francis had been diagnosed with “infectious bronchitis” requiring antibiotics, and that the treatment had led to a “marked improvement in his state of health.”
The Gemelli hospital is the favorite choice of the pontiffs to the point of being nicknamed ‘Vatican 3’ by Pope John Paul II, who was treated nine times at Gemelli and spent a total of 153 days there.
A Jesuit who seems happiest to be among his flock, Francisco continues to travel internationally and maintains a busy schedule.
Francis sat in the front seat of a white Fiat 500 car that took him away from the Gemelli Polyclinic.
But he was forced to use a wheelchair and cane last year because of knee pain, and admitted last summer that he had to slow down.
He said Thursday that he was “moved by the many messages” he was receiving at the hospital, thanking those who were praying for his recovery on Twitter.
Francis’ previous stay at Gemelli in July 2021 lasted 10 days. He was admitted after suffering from a type of diverticulitis, an inflammation of the pouches that develop in the lining of the intestine, which required surgery.
In an interview in January, the Pope said that the diverticulitis had returned.