Pope Francis skips Good Friday event to save strength for Easter as health concerns continue

 March 30, 2024

Pope Francis opted out of the customary Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum to safeguard his health, the Vatican announced, intensifying concerns about his fragile condition amid a demanding schedule.

Initially slated to lead the Way of the Cross procession, a reenactment of Christ's Passion and crucifixion, Francis instead observed the event from his residence at the Vatican, the Holy See disclosed.

The announcement

"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 Vatican press office statement revealed.

While Francis had previously forgone the event in 2023 due to recovery from bronchitis and inclement weather, his sudden decision to stay home this year indicated a change in plans.

The 87-year-old pontiff, who underwent partial lung removal in his youth, has grappled with respiratory ailments throughout the winter, described by the Vatican as flu-like symptoms, bronchitis, or a cold. In recent weeks, he has occasionally delegated speech readings to aides and entirely skipped delivering his Palm Sunday homily.

The decision not to attend appeared at the last moment: Francis' chair was positioned on the Colosseum platform, and his close aide, Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, adjusted a television screen for his viewing. Minutes before the procession's scheduled start, the Vatican announced Francis' absence via Telegram, prompting the swift removal of his chair.

Thousands of guests miss out

While some of the roughly 25,000 pilgrims expressed concern, many understood the situation.

Marlene Steuber, a visitor from Costa Rica, remarked, "I think people are involved and very blessed and happy to be here and experience these events here in Rome."

Brian Hopp, visiting from Chicago, acknowledged Francis' health challenges in the same report, noting his decision's responsible nature. "I know he has been going through a lot this year, so I don’t expect him to be able to make every event," Hopp commented.

Future concerns

The sudden announcement mirrored Francis' Palm Sunday decision when he declined to read his homily, opting for a moment of silent prayer instead.

"In addition to his respiratory problems, Francis had a chunk of his large intestine removed in 2021 and was hospitalized twice last year, including once to remove intestinal scar tissue from previous surgeries to address diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall," Time noted.

"He has been using a wheelchair or cane for nearly two years because of bad knee ligaments," it added.

Despite recent health concerns, Francis has maintained engagement in religious duties, such as presiding over the Holy Thursday ritual and planned events for Easter weekend.

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