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Gerard O’ConnellMarch 31, 2023
pope francis greets a baby held by his motherPope Francis visits children in the oncology ward of Gemelli Hospital on March 31. (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis is expected to be discharged from hospital and return to the Vatican on Saturday, April 1, the director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, said today, March 31.

He added that the pope is also expected “to be present” at the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, April 2.

Mr. Bruni said the pope’s return to the Vatican is expected following “the positive results of the last [medical] tests carried out [on him]” at the Gemelli Hospital this morning.

He said that the pope had a good day yesterday, March 30, “with a normal clinical course.” Francis continued to recover as the doctors expected from bronchitis thanks to the antibiotic therapy that they had prescribed for him.

The director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, said that “last evening, Pope Francis had dinner, eating a pizza, together with those who have assisted him in these days in hospital.”

Mr. Bruno also said, in a communication to the Vatican accredited media at midday, that “last evening, Pope Francis had dinner, eating a pizza, together with those who have assisted him in these days in hospital,” including the doctors, the nurses, the assistants and member of the Vatican police who protected him these past two days.

He said the pope had breakfast this Friday morning, March 31, “read the papers, and went back to work.”

In the afternoon, Pope Francis visited the children’s oncology ward at Gemelli Hospital and spent 30 minutes greeting and blessing children. He brought them gifts of rosary beads, chocolate eggs and a book about Jesus and baptized one of the children.

Mr. Bruni’s announcement had been anticipated earlier in the day by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, who told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency, “Pope Francis, on the basis of the information I have, will come out from the Gemelli Hospital tomorrow, and so will be able to preside at the rites of Holy Week.”

[A Prayer for Pope Francis During his Hospitalization]

Cardinal Re told Corriere della Sera: “I spoke to the pope last evening and he feels better. He expects to leave hospital tomorrow, Satuday, and afterward he will preside at [Holy Week] celebrations seated on the wheelchair, as he has done on previous occasions. That is what is envisaged.”

The expression “will preside” means that the pope will be present at the celebration, and most likely deliver the homily, while a cardinal will actually celebrate the Mass. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri will celebrate the Palm Sunday Mass and Cardinal Re the Easter Mass, the cardinals confirmed.

The pope was treated with intravenous antibiotics for the respiratory infection that was not Covid-19. The Vatican had said that the pope had complained of “some respiratory difficulties” in recent days.

The Vatican originally said the pope was taken to the hospital for “previously planned tests,” and later stated that he would remain at the hospital for a few days. Pope Francis’ scheduled meetings for March 30 and 31 had been canceled “to make room in his agenda for the tests to continue,” an official said.

Material from CNS was used in this report.

This story has been updated.

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