Pope Francis skips Palm Sunday homily, raising questions about his health

Pope Francis

ROME — Pope Francis skipped delivering the traditional homily on Palm Sunday to kick off the Catholic faith’s Holy Week, fueling speculation about the 87-year-old pontiff’s health.

>> Read more trending news

However, Francis presided over the service, speaking before and after the scheduled homily in a clear voice, The New York Times reported.

The pope celebrated the liturgy and delivered prayers at St. Peter’s Square, including to the victims of the Moscow concert hall bombing and to those affected by the war in Ukraine, according to the newspaper.

However, he did not participate in the procession of cardinals around the obelisk in the piazza of St. Peter’s Square before the Mass, The Associated Press reported. He blessed palm fronds and olive branches that were carried by members of the crowd.

Francis was later driven around in the popemobile, CNN reported.

Palm Sunday is the first event in a busy week leading to Easter Sunday. It includes his washing-of-feet ritual in a women’s prison, Francis’ presiding over a nighttime procession commemorating the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum and a nighttime Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Times. The week culminates with Easter Sunday Mass in the square, when Francis is expected to deliver a major blessing.

On Palm Sunday, a prepared text of the homily had been distributed to journalists, the AP reported. When an aide presented Francis with his glasses to begin reading the sermon, he made it clear that he was not going to speak.

While the pontiff has skipped homilies on Easter Sunday, it was the first time he did not offer a sermon on Palm Sunday, according to CNN.

Don Guido Colombo, a priest commentating for the Vatican’s official media channel on Sunday, called the pope’s decision as a “moment of prayer and silence,” the Times reported.

Francis was hospitalized in late February for the flu. For more than a year, he had been using a wheelchair and a walker because of strained ligaments in his knee.

The pontiff had surgery for intestinal blockage in June 2023. That came two years after Francis had 13 inches of his colon removed because of a narrowing of his large intestine.

He was hospitalized for five days at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital in late March 2023 with a lung infection.

Francis had part of one lung removed when he was younger.

He was elected the 266th pope in history on March 13, 2013, after the surprising resignation of Pope Benedict XVI two weeks earlier.

Comments on this article