Pope Francis has opened the celebration Mass in St Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday, presiding at his first ceremony after his hospital stay for bronchitis.
On a cloudy morning, Francis wore a long, ivory-coloured coat as he was driven into the square aboard a Pope mobile. Ahead of him, scores of prelates and priests and tens of thousands of rank-and-file faithful clutching palm fronds or olive branches filled the square.
Francis, 86, received antibiotics administered intravenously during his three-day hospital stay. He last previous appearance on St Peter’s Square was for his regular Wednesday public audience. He was taken to Rome’s Gemelli Policlinic that same day after feeling ill.
Palm Sunday opens a heavy schedule of Holy Week appointments for him.
At the start of the Mass, Francis took his place in a chair before the towering obelisk as a procession of cardinals in bright-red vestments and other faithful moved through the square.
His voice sounded strong as he opened the ceremony, which observed Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem in the time leading up to his crucifixion, which Christians mark on Good Friday.
The Vatican on Saturday said Francis would preside at the Holy Week ceremonies, which culminate with Easter Sunday Mass in the square on April 9.