Francis, 86, was hospitalized on Wednesday at Gemelli Polyclinic after reportedly having breathing difficulties following his weekly public audience. The pontiff was treated with antibiotics administered intravenously, the Vatican said.
Before departing, Francis had an emotional moment with a Rome couple whose 5-year-old daughter died Friday night at the hospital.
Serena Subania, the mother of Angelica, sobbed as she pressed her head into the chest of the pope, who put a hand on the woman’s head.
Francis seemed eager to linger with well-wishers. When a boy showed him his arm cast, the pope made a gesture as if to ask “Do you have a pen?”
A papal aide handed Francis one, and the pope autographed the cast.
The pontiff answered in a voice that was close to a whisper when reporters peppered him with questions, indicating he did feel chest pain, a symptom that convinced his medical staff to take him to the hospital Wednesday.
Francis sat in the front seat of the white Fiat 500 car that drove him away from Gemelli Polyclinic. But instead of heading straight home, his motorcade sped right past Vatican City, according to an Associated Press photographer positioned outside the walled city-state.
The pope was apparently headed to a Rome basilica that is a favorite of his.
After he was discharged from the same hospital in July 2021 following intestinal surgery, Francis stopped to offer prayers of thanksgiving at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, which is home to an icon depicting the Virgin Mary.
On Friday, Vatican officials said Francis would be at St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass to mark the start of Holy Week, which culminates on Easter, April 9.
Gregorio Borgia contributed reporting.