Saturday 30 March 2024

Pope presides over Easter Vigil service after skipping Good Friday procession

Pope presides over Easter Vigil, delivers 10-minute homily after skipping  Good Friday at last minute - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Pope Francis presided over the Vatican’s somber Easter Vigil service on Saturday night, a day after making the last-minute decision to skip his participation in the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum as a health precaution.

Francis entered the darkened, silent St Peter’s Basilica in his wheelchair, took his place in a chair and offered an opening prayer, sounding somewhat congested and out of breath.

The Vatican had said Francis skipped the Good Friday procession to ensure his participation in the vigil service Saturday night, which usually lasts about two hours, and Easter Sunday Mass a few hours later.

The 87-year-old pope, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, has been battling respiratory problems all winter that have made it difficult for him to speak at length. He and the Vatican have said he has had bronchitis, a cold or the flu.

Francis has cancelled some audiences and often asked an aide to read aloud some of his speeches. But the alarm was raised when he ditched his Palm Sunday homily altogether last week and then decided not to preside over the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum.

The Vatican said in a brief explanation that the decision was made to “conserve his health”.

While Francis also skipped the chilly Good Friday procession last year because he was recovering from bronchitis, his sudden absence from the event this year underscored how his health issues were affecting even major liturgical events at the Vatican.

Francis cancelled a trip to Dubai late last year, with just days to go, on doctor’s orders.

In addition to his respiratory problems, Francis had a part of his large intestine removed in 2021 and was hospitalised twice last year, including once to remove intestinal scar tissue from previous surgeries to address diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall. He has also been using a wheelchair or cane for nearly two years because of bad knee ligaments.

In his recently published memoirs, Life: My Story Through History, Francis said he was not suffering from any health problems that would require him to resign and that he still had “many projects to bring to fruition”.