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Pope Francis jokes ‘I’m still alive’ as he leaves hospital in time for Easter

Pope Francis joked ‘I’m still alive’ as he was discharged from hospital after recovering from a chest infection.

Francis, 86, was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic on Wednesday after reportedly suffering breathing difficulties following his weekly audience.

The Vatican later confirmed he was being treated with antibiotics for bronchitis.

Before departing on Saturday, he comforted a couple whose five-year-old daughter died at the hospital on Friday night.

Angelica Subania’s mother, Serena, sobbed as she pressed her head into the Argentine pope’s chest as he put a hand on her head.

Francis seemed eager to linger with well-wishers.

When a boy showed him his arm cast, he gestured as if to ask ‘Do you have a pen?’ before signing it.

Francis also at pizza with medical staff and baptised a baby on the children’s ward during his three-day stay.

The Vatican seemed keen to quickly dispel any worries about the pope’s physical fitness to carry on fully with his duties.

Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Pope will be in St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass at the start of Holy Week, although he did not say if he would deliver the homily.

It was also announced he will 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.

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