Pope Francis skips Palm Sunday homily but presides over service

Pope Francis at the last minute skipped reading his homily during a Palm Sunday Mass for tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square but continued presiding at the service, read his noon prayer and was driven around the crowd in a popemobile.

In recent weeks the 87-year-old pope has been suffering on and off from bronchitis and influenza and has delegated an aide to read his addresses for him, but on Sunday his prepared text was not read at all.

It is very unusual for a pope to totally skip a homily at a major event such as Palm Sunday, which marks the start of Holy Week, a busy period leading to Easter.

The Vatican gave no immediate explanation for why the pope skipped the homily. Vatican Television coverage showed only the crowd for a few minutes, instead of a close-up of the pope.

An announcer on Vatican Radio then said the pope had decided to not read the homily. The pope, dressed in red vestments, continued presiding, reading parts of the Mass.

Cardinals, priests and bishops took part in the service that commemorates what the Bible says was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem days before he was betrayed, put on trial and executed by crucifixion.

Pope Francis gestures as he presides at the Palm Sunday Mass at St Peter's Square on March 24, 2024.

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The clerics, along with participants in a crowd estimated by Vatican police at about 60,000 people, held palm fronds and olive branches at the service.

Francis has a knee ailment and for more than a year he has presided at Masses while sitting near the altar while a cardinal acts as the main celebrant

He again asked for prayers for all those suffering from wars, mentioning Ukraine and Gaza.

At the end of the service, Francis was driven around the square in an open-top vehicle. He waved and smiled at people in the crowd and did not appear to be any difficulty

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