Pope Francis has been cleared by doctors for discharge on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, the Vatican said, adding that the pontiff had pizza one evening with medical staff and baptised a baby in the paediatrics ward.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni also said that Francis will return home on Saturday and is scheduled to be in St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass at the start of Holy Week, although he did not say if the pontiff would deliver the homily during the lengthy service.
“The medical team that is following His Holiness Pope Francis, after evaluating the outcome of tests carried out today and the favourable clinical recovery, has confirmed discharge” on Saturday, Bruni said in a written statement Friday night.
The pope, 86, was taken to hospital two days ago after complaining of breathing difficulties. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and has responded well to an infusion of antibiotics, his medical team said.
Calling the pontiff’s medical recovery “normal”, Bruni said earlier in the day that 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,” including doctors, nurses, assistants and Vatican security personnel.
Highlighting the pope’s improved health, the Vatican released a video showing him standing up and baptising a baby who was in a hospital cot. In a separate photograph, Francis was shown handing an Easter egg to a young child.
Francis, who marked the 10th anniversary of his pontificate earlier this month, has suffered a number of ailments in recent years.
He was last hospitalised in July 2021 when he had part of his colon removed in an operation aimed at addressing a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis.
As a young man in Argentina, Francis had part of a lung removed.
“When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God,” the pope tweeted on Friday.
When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God. #Lent
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 31, 2023
The Vatican seemed eager to quickly dispel any worries about the pope’s physical fitness to carry on fully with his duties. Nearly immediately after the announcement of a discharge date for Francis, the Vatican announced that the pope would meet the prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace.
In another sign of confidence over the pope’s health, the Catholic Church in Marseille said in a statement the pontiff would visit the southern French city on September 23, and attend a meeting of bishops and youths from around the Mediterranean.
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