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Pope Francis presides over Easter Sunday Mass

Pope Francis on Sunday gave Easter Mass with tens of thousands of Catholics at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City before his traditional blessing, as…

Pope Francis on Sunday gave Easter Mass with tens of thousands of Catholics at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City before his traditional blessing, as concerns persist over his health.

The 87-year-old arrived in a wheelchair to preside over the mass from 10:00 am (0800 GMT) in cloudy and windy weather, with the events broadcast live around the globe.

Francis will pronounce the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) blessing at midday where he is expected to bring up the international conflicts raging worldwide.

Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the culmination of Holy Week, a major part of the Catholic calendar followed by 1.3 billion people.

The pope on Saturday presided over the Easter Vigil at the Vatican in front of some 6,000 people from around the world, a day after his last-minute cancellation at a major Good Friday procession revived questions about his health.

He delivered a 10-minute homily in Italian, speaking without any undue difficulty and condemning “the walls of selfishness and indifference” in the world.

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour service, he showed little sign of fatigue, taking time to greet and bless some of the worshippers.

In a brief statement Friday, the Vatican had said that “to preserve his health ahead of tomorrow’s vigil and the Easter Sunday mass, Pope Francis will this evening follow the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum from the Santa Marta Residence”, where he lives.

Health concerns
The last-minute decision raised questions about how long Francis can continue to lead the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told AFP on Friday there was “no particular concern” about his health and the decision to pull out had been “simply a measure of caution”.

The Argentinian Jesuit had also cancelled his participation in the “Via Crucis” in 2023, but that followed a three-day hospital stay for bronchitis and was announced well ahead of time. Weeks later, he underwent a hernia operation.

Up until Friday, the pope had attended his various engagements throughout the week, but he recently appeared tired and has sometimes delegated speaking roles to colleagues.

Francis, who never takes holidays, made his last trip in September, to the southern French city of Marseille. In December, he cancelled a much-anticipated attendance at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

His next scheduled trip is to Venice on April 28. The Vatican has not yet confirmed a planned trip to Asia and Pacific Ocean nations for this summer.

Francis has previously left the door open to stepping down if he can no longer do the job. That would follow the example of his immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI, who in 2013 became the first pope since the Middle Ages to voluntarily step aside.

But in a memoir published this month, Francis wrote that he did “not have any cause serious enough to make me think of resigning”.

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