Pope Francis was released on Saturday from the hospital in Rome, where he was being treated for three days for bronchitis, and quipped to journalists before being driven away: "I'm still alive." He was picked up in a white Fiat 500.
The 86-year-old went to the clinic on Wednesday after experiencing breathing problems during his weekly audience. According to the Vatican, his bronchitis was treated with intravenous antibiotics.
When leaving the clinic, there were moving scenes when Pope Francis comforted and hugged the parents of a five-year-old girl who died in the clinic on Friday evening. Little Angelica's mother sobbed as she pressed her head against the chest of the Pope, who placed his hand on her head.
Francis approached people in front of the clinic who wanted to wish him well. In a whisper, he asked a boy with his arm in a cast if he had a pen – and signed the bandage.
It was already announced on Friday that Francis would attend the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square. It was unclear whether the Pope would preach a sermon or someone else would present his words.
At a joint dinner the pope had with doctors, nurses, assistants and security guards during his stay in the clinic, there was pizza. After breakfast on Friday, Francis read newspapers and worked, it said.
He also visited the children's cancer ward in the clinic. There the Pope distributed, among other things, chocolate eggs, rosaries and books to the little ones. During the half-hour visit, he also baptized a boy who was only a few weeks old in the name of Miguel Angel, as the Holy See announced. In the first photos and a short video released since his briefing, the pontiff appeared quite alert.
On Thursday evening, the spokesman for the Holy See announced that the pontiff had rested and worked a bit during the day. On Friday morning, the media reported that the Argentine's condition had continued to improve and that doctors were optimistic.
The Pope's hospitalization caused a stir in the Catholic Church and at the Curia. Because Holy Week and then Easter are just a few days away, there were fears that Francis would not be able to attend the most important celebrations of the church year in the Vatican. These include the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday with the consecration of the oils for confirmation and anointing of the sick, Good Friday with the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum, the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica and the service on Easter Sunday in front of tens of thousands of believers in St.