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Pope Francis leads Easter vigil after health concerns

March 30, 2024

In an address to around 6,000 people, Pope Francis decried war and hatred in the world. It comes a day after he missed an Easter procession at short notice in order to preserve his health.

 Pope Francis waves after presiding over the Easter vigil celebration in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, March 30, 2024
The pope has battled health issues in recent months, but remains in good spirits Image: Alessandra Tarantino/AP Photo/picture alliance

Pope Francis took part in the Easter Vigil at the Vatican on Saturday night, a day after he skipped a Good Friday service at the last minute to "preserve his health."

Despite sounding raspy and out of breath at times, the 87-year-old pontiff successfully delivered a 10-minute homily and baptized eight adults at St. Peter's Basilica.

He entered the basilica in his wheelchair, took his place in a chair and offered an opening prayer. Around 6,000 people gathered in Vatican City to mark the occasion.

What did the pope say?

During his homily, Francis spoke out against "the walls of selfishness and indifference" in the world and lamented "all the aspirations for peace shattered by the cruelty of hatred and the ferocity of war."

Francis also spoke about the resurrection of Christ.

In a reference to the stone that the faithful believe was removed from Christ's tomb after his death, the Pope urged Catholics to remove the stones in their lives that "block the door of our hearts, stifling life, extinguishing hope, imprisoning us in the tomb of our fears and regrets."

"Let us lift our eyes to him and ask that the power of his resurrection may roll away the heavy stones that weigh down our souls," he added.

Pope Francis' L'Aquila trip fuels resignation speculation

The pope's health concerns

Francis is set to preside over the Easter Mass on Sunday and give the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

It comes after the pontiff recently canceled engagements while battling what has been variously described as colds, bronchitis and the flu.

Francis had one lung removed as a young man and has more recently used a wheelchair or cane due to a knee ailment.

But in a memoir published earlier in the month, Francis wrote that he did "not have any cause serious enough to make me think of resigning."

zc/rm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)