‘I’m still alive,’ Pope Francis quips as he leaves hospital

Pope Francis was discharged on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, quipping to journalists before being driven away: “I’m still alive.”

Francis, 86, was hospitalized on Wednesday at Gemelli Polyclinic after reportedly having breathing difficulties following his weekly public audience.

Doctors said the pontiff was receiving antibiotics intravenously to treat his bronchitis, the Vatican said in an earlier statement.

Before departing, Francis hugged a couple whose daughter died Friday night at the hospital, the Vatican said Saturday.

Francis sat in the front seat of the white Fiat 500 car that drove him away from Gemelli Polyclinic.

On the eve of his discharge, Vatican officials said that Francis would be St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass to mark the start of Holy Week, which culminates on Easter, April 9.

But it is unclear, though, if Francis will be able to preside over or attend Holy Week observances.

They include a stamina-taxing late night Way of the Cross procession marked by prayers on Good Friday at the Colosseum in Rome and Easter Mass on April 9, which is traditionally followed by a long papal speech delivered from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.

Due to a chronic knee problem, Francis had already largely stopped celebrating Mass at major Catholic Church holy days but continued to preside at the ceremonies and deliver homilies.

He has used a wheelchair for over a year because of strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture. He has said that the injury was healing and that he has been walking more with a cane of late.

Francis also has said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he did not respond well to the general anesthesia during the 2021 intestinal surgery.

He said soon after the surgery that he had recovered fully and could eat normally. But in a January interview with The Associated Press, he said his diverticulosis, or bulges in the intestinal wall, had “returned.”

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