Pope Francis has been cleared by doctors for discharge on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, the Vatican said, adding that the pontiff had pizza one evening with medical staff and baptised a baby in the paediatrics ward.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, in one of several updates on Friday, also said that Francis will be in St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass at the start of Holy Week, although he did not say if the pontiff would deliver the homily during the particularly lengthy service.
“The medical team that is following His Holiness Pope Francis, after evaluating the outcome of tests carried out today and the favourable clinical recovery, has confirmed discharge” on Saturday, Mr Bruni said in a written statement on Friday night.
Francis, 86, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday at Gemelli Polyclinic, where doctors said the pontiff was receiving antibiotics intravenously to treat his bronchitis.
Calling the pontiff’s medical recovery “normal,” Mr Bruni said earlier in the day that on Thursday evening, “Pope Francis had dinner, eating a pizza, together with all those who are assisting him in these days of the hospital stay,” including doctors, nurses, assistants and Vatican security personnel.
The Vatican reported he had experienced difficulty breathing in the previous days.
The Vatican on Thursday said that antibiotic treatment for bronchitis had resulted in a “marked” improvement in his health.
After the mother tells Francis the boy’s name, Miguel Angel, the pope uses a metal hospital tray usually employed to hold syringes to pour water over the sleeping baby’s head, then tries to comfort the infant, who wakes up, wailing and seeming to swat away the pope’s hand.
Francis then asked the mother to dry her son’s wet forehead. He then told her: ”When you go to your parish, say that the pope baptised him.”
Francis was smiling and looked chipper as he visited children being treated at Gemelli for cancer and gave out large, wrapped chocolate Easter eggs.
Earlier in the day, Francis sent a tweet on Friday possibly inspired by his current health challenge.
“When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God,” Francis wrote.
The Vatican seemed keen to quickly dispel any worries about the pope’s physical fitness to carry on fully with his duties.
Nearly immediately after the announcement of a discharge date for Francis, the Vatican announced that the pope would meet the prime minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Monday in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace.
Francis had already largely stopped celebrating Mass at major Catholic Church holy days because of a chronic knee problem, but had continued to preside at the ceremonies and deliver homilies.
The Holy Week appointments 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.
During Wednesday’s hour-long public audience, Francis at times appeared visibly in pain when he moved about and was helped by aides.
In July 2021, Francis underwent surgery at Gemelli Polyclinic after suffering from a narrowing of his colon. As a young man in Argentina, Francis had part of a lung removed.