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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Pope Francis led Easter Mass on Sunday, attended by tens of thousands of Catholics at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, despite ongoing concerns about his health. Arriving in a wheelchair, the 87-year-old pontiff presided over the mass starting at 10:00 am (0800 GMT), amidst cloudy and windy weather, with the event broadcast globally. Following the mass, the pope will deliver the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) blessing at midday, where he is expected to address international conflicts.

Easter Sunday holds significant religious importance, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ and concluding Holy Week, observed by approximately 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide. Pope Francis’s engagement on Saturday included presiding over the Easter Vigil at the Vatican, attended by around 6,000 individuals from various parts of the world. Despite a last-minute cancellation at a major Good Friday procession, the pope delivered a 10-minute homily in Italian during the vigil, emphasizing the need to break down “the walls of selfishness and indifference” globally.

Concerns about the pope’s health arose following the recent cancellations, prompting speculation about his ability to continue leading the Catholic Church. However, a Vatican source assured on Friday that there was “no particular concern” regarding his health, attributing the cancellations to precautionary measures. This marks the second time in recent years that Pope Francis has withdrawn from the “Via Crucis,” following a hospital stay in 2023 and subsequent hernia surgery.

While Pope Francis has maintained a rigorous schedule, recent observations of fatigue and delegation of speaking roles have sparked questions about his well-being. Notably, the pope, known for his commitment to service, canceled a planned attendance at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai last December. His upcoming trip to Venice in April remains scheduled, although the Vatican has yet to confirm a proposed visit to Asia and Pacific Ocean nations this summer.

Despite ongoing health concerns, Pope Francis has expressed his commitment to continuing his papal duties, with no intention of resigning. Reflecting on his position in a memoir published this month, he stated that he does not currently foresee any serious reason to consider stepping down. However, the pope’s health remains under scrutiny, raising questions about the future leadership of the Catholic Church and the potential for a voluntary resignation, reminiscent of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

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