ROME — Pope Francis was discharged on Saturday morning from a hospital in Rome after a three-day stay during which he was treated for bronchitis, raising new concerns about the health of the aging pontiff, who had major surgery in 2021 and now often uses a cane or a wheelchair because of knee problems and sciatica.
Francis, 86, left the Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital around 10:30 local time on Saturday morning. He was admitted on Wednesday afternoon.
Before leaving the hospital grounds, Francis got out of the white Fiat 500 that would take him to the Vatican to greet journalists and well-wishers, who cheered and waved hello.
“I’m still alive,” Francis said.
He also hugged the parents of a girl who had died in the hospital the previous evening, stopping and praying with them, the Vatican said.
Francis was expected to be present on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square for the Palm Sunday Mass, but the Vatican did not say whether he would deliver the homily during the service, which will be officiated by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the vice dean of the College of Cardinals.
It was the pope’s second stay at Gemelli, where John Paul II also received treatment during his pontificate. In 2021, part of Francis’ colon was removed as a result of a bowel inflammation called diverticulitis. This year, in an interview with The Associated Press, he said that the diverticulitis had returned.
But apart from recurrent episodes of sciatica and problems with his right knee that have forced the cancellation of events and even trips, the pope’s health has not given much cause for alarm.
Francis himself has been more forthcoming about his mortality, even as the Vatican remains mostly tight-lipped about papal health issues.
Speaking to reporters on a papal plane in 2014, he said, “I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father,” while in 2015, he said he saw himself serving as pope for about another five years.
He has also said that he would consider resigning, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did in 2013, if failing health made it impossible for him to run the Roman Catholic Church. But he has also made clear that he views the pontificate as a lifelong mission.
“I believe that the pope’s ministry is ad vitam,” he told a group of Jesuits in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month, using the term “for life” in Latin. “I see no reason why it should not be so.” He added that retirement was, for the moment, not on his “agenda.”