Pope Francis to skip Good Friday procession due to cold weather
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, who left the hospital last weekend following a bout of bronchitis, will skip Friday night’s outdoor “Way of the Cross” procession due to cold weather, the Vatican said in a statement.
The 86-year-old pontiff will still attend an indoor Good Friday service earlier in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in response to a question from Reuters.
It is the first time the pope will not preside at the “Via Crucis” service since he was elected in 2013. The event was moved to the Vatican during the COVID-19 pandemic and held in slimmed-down versions, but Francis presided.
The Vatican said Francis would follow the service, which usually lasts more than two hours and is attended by thousands of people, from his residence.
The temperature in Rome was expected to be about 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) on Friday night. The temperature has fallen in recent days and light snow fell on Rome’s outskirts on Thursday.
During the traditional service, the pope sits outdoors near the upper section of the Colosseum while participants process around the ancient monument.
The participants stop to pray and hear meditations at the 14 “Stations of the Cross,” which commemorate the events in the last hours of the life of Jesus, starting with his arrest and ending with his burial.
Francis spent four days in the hospital last week for treatment for bronchitis after complaining of breathing difficulties. He recovered quickly after receiving antibiotics.
The pope, who appeared fine at two services on Thursday, usually speaks at the end of the Good Friday procession at the Colosseum.
The Vatican did not announce any changes to the rest of the Pope’s Holy Week schedule.
He is due to preside at an Easter vigil Mass on Saturday night in St. Peter’s Basilica and on Easter Sunday he is due to deliver his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message in St. Peter’s Square.
The Easter Sunday blessing is held from the basilica’s outdoor central balcony at noon.
The last pope to skip a Good Friday service was Pope John Paul II. Failing health prevented him from leaving the Vatican in the last weeks of his life in 2005.