Pope presides over Saturday Easter Vigil after missing Good Friday procession

Pope Francis has presided over the Saturday Easter Vigil service at the Vatican, delivering a 10-minute homily and baptising eight people, a day after suddenly skipping the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum as a health precaution.

Francis entered the darkened, silent St Peter’s Basilica in his wheelchair, took his place in a chair and offered an opening prayer.

Sounding somewhat congested and out of breath, he blessed an elaborately decorated Easter candle, the flame of which was then shared with other candles until the whole basilica twinkled.

Over an hour later, Francis delivered a 10-minute homily in a strong voice, clearing his throat occasionally.

Pope Francis presides over the celebration
Pope Francis presides over the celebration (Alessandra Tarantino/AP/PA)

The Vatican had said Francis skipped the Good Friday procession to ensure his participation in both the vigil service on Saturday night, which usually lasts about two hours, and Easter Sunday Mass a few hours later.

The 87-year-old, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, has been battling respiratory problems all winter that have made it difficult for him to speak at length. He and the Vatican have said he has had bronchitis, a cold or the flu.

He has cancelled some audiences and often asked an aide to read aloud some of his speeches.

Vatican Pope Easter
The service is one of the most important moments in the Catholic liturgical calendar (Alessandra Tarantino/AP/PA)

The Vatican said in a brief explanation that the decision was made to “conserve his health”.

While Francis also skipped the chilly Good Friday procession last year because he was recovering from bronchitis, his sudden absence from the event this year underscored how his frail health was impacting even major liturgical events at the Vatican.

Francis cancelled a trip to Dubai late last year, with just days to go, on doctor’s orders.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –