Pope Francis pulls out of Easter event ‘to preserve his health’


Pope Francis pulled out of Friday’s Way of the Cross ceremony at the last minute, with the Vatican saying he wanted to “preserve his health” ahead of other Easter events this weekend.

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The 87-year-old’s armchair had been set out on the hill facing the Colosseum in Rome, but was withdrawn as the announcement came just moments before the Good Friday ceremony.

“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,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The pope missed last year’s open-air ceremony, which took place shortly after he was released from three nights in hospital with bronchitis.

Francis last month caught what the Vatican called a “light flu” that caused him to cancel some events, and he has on several occasions since asked others to read his speeches.

Thousands of people had turned out for Friday evening’s ceremony, many of them holding candles in their hand, in one of the highlights of Holy Week leading up to Easter.

For the first time since becoming pope, Francis himself wrote the texts to be read out at each of the 14 so-called Stations of the Cross, which symbolise Christ’s journey from death sentence to crucifixion.

On Sunday, the Argentine is due to preside over the Easter mass in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican before giving the “Urbi et Orbi” address.

Pope Francis, who had part of a lung removed in his youth, was forced to cancel a visit to COP28 UN climate talks in Dubai in December after a bout of flu-like symptoms.

The pontiff, who took over as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, has suffered a number of health issues in recent years, from knee and hip pain to an inflamed colon and hernia surgery last June.

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