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Pope Francis skips Good Friday procession for health reasons

March 29, 2024

The Vatican announced last minute that the pope would observe the traditional Easter celebration from home. It is the second year in a row the 87-year-old has had to pull out of the Good Friday procession.

Pope Francis, seen here, has been battling health problems since last year
The 87-year-old pontiff has been battling health problems since last yearImage: Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu/picture alliance

Pope Francis skipped the traditional Good Friday "Way of the Cross" procession in Rome to protect his health, the Vatican said in a statement.

Francis had been expected to preside over the procession that marks the beginning of the Easter weekend and Holy Week, one of the holiest events in the Christian calendar.

But just as the event was about to begin, the Vatican announced that Francis was following the event from his home at the Vatican.

"To conserve his health in view of the vigil tomorrow and Mass on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis will follow the Via Crucis at the Colosseum this evening from the Casa Santa Marta," a statement from the Vatican press office said.

Pope Francis calls for peace in Easter message

Last-minute decision to cancel appearance

The decision to not attend the Good Friday procession appeared to be very last-minute — Francis' chair was in place on the platform where he was to preside over the rite.

His closest aide, Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, moved the television screen around on the platform so Francis would have a better view of what was going on inside the Colosseum itself.

But at 9:10 p.m. (2010 GMT), five minutes before the official start of the procession, the Vatican press office announced on Telegram that he wouldn't show up. The chair was quickly taken away. 

On Saturday, Francis is expected to preside over a lengthy evening Easter Vigil in St. Peter's, before leading the all-important Easter Sunday Mass in which he is set to deliver a speech to discuss the global crises and threats facing humanity. 

Pope battling health problems

The 87-year-old pontiff has been battling ill health for months. But he has appeared to deteriorate in recent weeks, and has had his aides read out several of his speeches. 

In addition to his respiratory problems, Francis had a chunk of his large intestine removed in 2021 and was hospitalized twice last year. 

Pope Francis returns home after hospital stay

Francis also missed the procession in 2023, the first time since becoming pope in 2013. At the time, it had only been about a week since he had been released from hospital after undergoing treatment for bronchitis.

He also skipped delivering his homily during the Palm Sunday Mass service at the Vatican last week, although he was able to preside over the service.

rm/ab (Reuters, AP)