The Pope arrived in St. Peter’s Square in a car and got out near the obelisk to perform the rite of blessing the olive branches in front of thousands of faithful.
Francis wore a white cloak over which he wore the red stole for the blessing liturgy. The pilgrims gathered in Rome waved olive branches in greeting. These commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. A procession of about 100 young people, bishops and cardinals marched on St. Peter’s Square to the altar in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. There the Pope celebrated Mass together with the Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri. The Pope reached old age on foot using a cane.
The square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica was decorated with flowers from the Netherlands. Thousands of chairs were set up for visitors in the days leading up to the celebration.
Around 1.7 billion Catholic and Protestant Christians around the world begin “Holy Week” on Palm Sunday, the high point of the church year. On the Sunday before Easter, palm branches are traditionally carried in the church procession, blessed with holy water and then placed behind crucifixes in the houses. The Palm Sunday liturgy commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and marks the beginning of the liturgy for Holy Week.
After his release from hospital, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Week and Easter Day services as planned. The Vatican confirmed the celebration of Mass on Maundy Thursday, which usually includes the rite of washing the feet. Francis will go to the Casal del Marmo juvenile prison in north-west Rome for the occasion. Francis has been visiting prisons on Maundy Thursday for years and celebrating the service there with prisoners in memory of Jesus’ last supper, at which he washed his disciples’ feet. This gesture of humility is still part of the service on Maundy Thursday.
Sick with bronchitis
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni initially left open whether the Pope will also take part in the traditional Good Friday evening Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. Because of the still cool temperatures in Rome at night, it is widely expected that Francis will cancel this appointment with regard to his health.
According to the information, the pope will preside at the services in Easter week as planned, while a cardinal celebrates at the altar. This division has been practiced in the Vatican for about a year because the Pope’s mobility is severely restricted due to knee problems.
Francis was treated for bronchitis at the Gemelli Clinic in Rome from Wednesday to Saturday morning. The 86-year-old was hospitalized on Wednesday and treated with antibiotics for “infectious bronchitis”. Francis’ hospital stay had fueled speculation about a possible resignation by the head of the church.