Pope Francis’s sudden absence from the Via Crucis raises health concerns

The Vatican issued a statement minutes before the ceremony.

Pope Francis.
Pope Francis. Photo courtesy: Long Thiên.

The health of Pope Francis has been a concern worldwide for several weeks, and today it raised a new alert when he resigned from presiding over the traditional Via Crucis held at the Roman Colosseum.

The news was confirmed by the Holy See through a statement: “To preserve health before the Vigil tomorrow and the Holy Mass of Easter Sunday, this afternoon Pope Francis will follow the Via Crucis from the Casa Santa Marta.”

Francis, 87, has experienced some respiratory problems in recent times, but yesterday he presided over, apparently without issue, the Holy Thursday Mass at a women’s prison in Rome and today the Passion ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Pope also presided over a Good Friday religious service at St. Peter’s Basilica before the nighttime procession at the Colosseum in Rome to commemorate the darkest day of the Christian calendar, which marks the death of Jesus by crucifixion.

Additionally, he will preside over the Easter Vigil on Saturday and on Sunday will celebrate the Easter Mass and deliver his double message and blessing “Urbi et Orbi” from the central balcony of St. Peter’s.

The Argentine pontiff arrived at St. Peter’s in a wheelchair, alongside cardinals and bishops, for the Good Friday “Passion of the Lord” Mass.

Francis personally wrote this year’s meditations for the first time in his 11-year papacy. They included praises for meekness and forgiveness in response to acts of evil and prayers for persecuted Christians and victims of war.

The Pope, who has called for the Church to be less dominated by men, also praised the women who helped Jesus as he carried the cross and pleaded for “those (women) who in our days are exploited and suffer injustices and indignities.”

In another display of his attention to women, Francis performed the foot-washing ritual on Thursday, recalling Jesus’ gesture of humility to his apostles at the Last Supper, in a women’s prison in Rome.

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