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KNA InternationalMarch 08, 2024
Pope Francis gives his homily during a Lenten penance service March 8, 2024, at the parish of St. Pius V in Rome. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Rome (KNA) Pope Francis is feeling better again. Late on Friday afternoon, the 87-year-old celebrated a service in a parish in Rome and gave the sermon himself. Due to a bout of flu and problems with his voice, he had often had his texts read out by colleagues at appointments over the past few days. On Friday, he preached for more than 15 minutes in the church of San Pio V and repeatedly added his own longer remarks to the prepared text.

The sermon was about the power of forgiveness and the importance of the sacrament of confession. "God never tires of forgiving," said Francis and had the 600 or so worshippers in the packed church repeat this sentence twice. "Lord, if you are willing, cleanse me," was another sentence he spoke together with the congregation. He admonished the priests present to always forgive in confession and not to probe too much with questions.

Some of the people in the church stood in the side aisles. Several hundred more greeted Francis as he arrived in front of the 1950s building. As he was pushed inside in his wheelchair, the people waiting there applauded him enthusiastically and recorded his arrival on smartphones.

During the service, Francis sat on a white armchair next to the altar. He looked alert and had more color in his face than in previous days. In the meantime, he moved to a chair in front of a side altar and heard confessions from nine of the faithful who came to him one after the other. He seemed to be joking with some of them, one young woman spontaneously hugged him after the confession. As the Pope left the church to applause, some of those present shouted "Viva Papa Francesco!" (Long live Pope Francis).

Since an infection last November, the Pope has repeatedly suffered from respiratory illnesses. Despite having the flu, he made public appearances and received guests at the Vatican. These included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) last Saturday.

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