Pope Francis skips Palm Sunday homily

POPE Francis celebrates the Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2024. /  AP
POPE Francis celebrates the Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2024. / APAlessandra Tarantino

ROME — Pope Francis decided at the last minute to skip his homily during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, avoiding a strenuous speech at the start of a busy Holy Week that will test his increasingly frail health.

Hobbled by bad knees and persistent respiratory problems, Francis also didn’t participate in the procession of cardinals around the obelisk in the piazza at the start of the Mass. Instead, the 87-year-old pontiff blessed the palm fronds and olive branches carried by the faithful from the altar.

Francis had been expected to deliver a homily halfway through the service and a prepared text had been distributed to journalists. But when an aide presented Francis with his glasses to begin reading, the pope made clear he wouldn’t deliver the remarks, leaving the crowd waiting in silence.

Vatican officials didn’t immediately explain why. The Vatican press office later said the homily was replaced by “a moment of silence and prayer.”

Francis though did pronounce prayers throughout the service and offered a long appeal for peace at the end of the Mass. He said he was praying for the families of those killed in what he called an “inhuman” attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall and also asked for prayers for “the martyred Ukraine” and people of Gaza.

Vatican officials estimated some 60,000 people attended the Mass, held under a sunny, breezy spring sky. Francis spent several minutes greeting them from the popemobile, making several loops around the piazza at the end of the service.

Palm Sunday kicks off a busy week for Francis leading up to Easter Sunday when the faithful commemorate the resurrection of Christ. On Thursday, Francis is due to travel to a Rome women’s prison for the traditional washing of the feet ritual. On Friday he is scheduled to preside over the torchlit Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum re-enacting Christ’s crucifixion.

The following day marks the Easter Vigil, during which Francis presides over a solemn nighttime service in the basilica, followed by Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square and his noontime blessing from the loggia above. / AP


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