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The decision to not attend the procession appeared to be very last-minute as Francis’ chair was in place. Alamy Stock Photo

Concerns over Pope’s health as he misses Good Friday procession in Rome

The Vatican said that the pontiff would instead be watching the service from home.

POPE FRANCIS SKIPPED traditional Good Friday processions at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy last night in order to “conserve his health” ahead of other Easter services this weekend.

Francis was expected to preside over the Way of the Cross procession, which re-enacts Christ’s Passion and crucifixion, and composed the meditations that are read aloud at each station.

But just as the event was about to begin, the Vatican announced that Francis was following the event from his apartment in the city instead.

“To conserve his health in view of the vigil tomorrow and Mass on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis will follow the Via Crucis at the Colosseum this evening from the Casa Santa Marta,” a statement from the press office said.

The 87-year-old Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, has been battling what he and the Vatican have described as a case of the flu, bronchitis or a cold all winter long.

For the last several weeks he has occasionally asked an aide to read aloud his speeches and skipped his Palm Sunday homily altogether.

The decision to not attend the Good Friday procession appeared to be very last-minute: Francis’ chair was in place on the platform where he was to preside over the rite.

His closest aide, Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, was on hand and moved the television screen around on the platform so Francis would have a better view of what was going on inside the Colosseum itself.

But at 9.10pm, five minutes before the official start of the procession, the Vatican press office announced that he would not be taking part. The chair was quickly taken away.

vatican-ushers-carry-pope-francis-chair-prior-to-the-start-of-the-via-crucis-way-of-the-cross-at-the-colosseum-on-good-friday-in-rome-friday-march-29-2024-ap-photogregorio-borgia Vatican ushers carry Pope Francis chair prior to the start of the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, in Rome. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The sudden announcement recalled Francis’ last-minute decision on Palm Sunday, when the Vatican issued the Pope’s homily in advance to journalists, and his aide got up to give him his glasses to read it, when Francis made clear he was skipping it.

It is the first time he had skipped the traditional, evocative event in his 11-year papacy, and recalled the Good Friday that St John Paul II famously watched from the Apostolic Palace just before he died in 2005.

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