NewsPope Francis presides over Easter Vigil after sudden absence on Good Friday

Pope Francis presides over Easter Vigil after sudden absence on Good Friday

Pope Francis is shown presiding over a Holy Mass of Easter Vigil at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on Saturday. The pontiff has canceled several appearances in recent weeks while he battles respiratory issues. Photo by Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE

March 30 (UPI) — Pope Francis presided over Saturday’s Easter vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica after cancelling a Good Friday appearance at the last minute due to health reasons.

The Vatican confirmed Francis would lead the hourslong vigil commemorating the resurrection of Jesus.

The service also included the baptism of eight Catholic converts.

The 87-year-old pontiff chose to bow out of a Good Friday service at the Coliseum to “preserve his health” ahead of Saturday’s vigil and further obligations on Easter Sunday the Vatican said.

His sudden absence caused concern, as aides were preparing for his arrival until the Vatican announced five minutes before the start of the service that he would not be present.

He also presided over the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord at St Peter’s Basilica earlier on Saturday, where he linked the judgement of the crowd watching Jesus’ crucifixion to online hatred.

Francis on Sunday is expected to preside over a morning Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square and deliver a speech praying for the end of global crises.

Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man and underwent abdominal surgery last year, has battled respiratory issues all winter, which have impacted his ability to make public appearances.

In recent weeks, he has canceled some appearances and had aides recite several of his speeches while he has battled respiratory issues.

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