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 March 26, 2024

Pope Francis misses Palm Sunday message over ongoing health issues

Pope Francis made an eleventh-hour decision to forego delivering his homily during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, opting to conserve his strength at the onset of a demanding Holy Week that will test his increasingly fragile health.

With persistent knee problems and ongoing respiratory challenges, the 87-year-old pontiff refrained from partaking in the procession of cardinals around the piazza's obelisk at the commencement of the Mass.

Health issues showing

He instead bestowed blessings upon the palm fronds and olive branches carried by the faithful from the altar.

Although it had been anticipated that Francis would deliver a homily midway through the service, and a prepared text had been distributed to journalists, he declined to speak when his glasses were presented to him, leaving the congregation in a moment of silence.

The Vatican did not immediately provide an explanation for the change. Later, the Vatican press office announced that the homily had been replaced by "a moment of silence and prayer."

Throughout the service, Francis offered prayers and concluded with a lengthy appeal for peace. He extended prayers to the families affected by what he termed an "inhuman" attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall and urged prayers for "the martyred Ukraine" and the people of Gaza.

60,000 attend

Approximately 60,000 individuals attended the Mass, held under a sunny spring sky. Following the service, Francis spent several minutes greeting them from the popemobile, making multiple loops around the piazza.

Palm Sunday marks the commencement of a hectic week for Francis, culminating in Easter Sunday when Christians worldwide commemorate Christ's resurrection.

His itinerary includes a visit to a women's prison in Rome on Thursday for the traditional washing of feet ritual, presiding over the torchlit Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Friday, and leading the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, followed by Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square and his midday blessing from the loggia above.

Vatican concerns

Holy Week is invariably challenging for popes, but this year presents additional obstacles for Francis, who has grappled with recurring health issues throughout the winter.

“May he convert the hearts of those who protect, organize and carry out these inhuman acts that offend God, who commanded us not to kill," Francis said in a prayer for those at war.

Francis also noted the ongoing Ukraine war, with “intense attacks on infrastructure, which not only bring death and suffering, but also the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe of even bigger dimensions.”

Despite these challenges, he remains resolute in his commitment to his pastoral duties, aiming to provide solace and guidance to the faithful during this sacred period.

Written By:
Dillon Burroughs

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