ROME – On the afternoon before he is expected to be discharged from Rome’s Gemelli hospital, Pope Francis paid a visit to sick children, bringing them Easter candy and baptizing an infant who is just a few weeks old.

“This afternoon Pope Francis went to visit children hospitalized in the pediatric oncology ward of the A. Gemelli Hospital, bringing them rosaries, chocolate eggs, and copies of the book, ‘Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,’” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement Friday.

Francis also visited the infant neurosurgery ward, where he “imparted the sacrament of baptism to a baby, named Miguel Angel, who is only a few weeks old. At the end he returned to his ward,” Bruni said, saying the pope’s outing lasted roughly half an hour.

According to Bruni, the baby the pope baptized is not sick, but was at the infant neurosurgery ward for some tests.

Pope Francis was admitted to the Gemelli hospital Wednesday afternoon after experiencing breathing difficulties and has been receiving an infusion of antibiotic treatment for bronchitis.

The 86-year-old pontiff had part of one lung removed while a young Jesuit after a severe bout of pneumonia, and he also suffers from sciatica and knee pain which for the past year has largely confined him to a wheelchair and the use of a cane.

His last stay at Gemelli, where a room is permanently reserved for the pope, was in 2021, when he spent 11 days in the hospital following an invasive colon surgery.

Bruni said Friday morning that Pope Francis, after having a mini pizza party with those assisting him in his room Thursday night, was back at work after breakfast and that he is expected to be discharged Saturday, given Friday’s test results.

Should he be discharged as expected, Pope Francis is expected to preside over Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, however, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, has said he and other cardinals will assist the pope in his Holy Week and Easter celebrations.

Pope Francis gives Easter candy to children at the pediatric oncology ward of Rome’s Gemelli hospital during his own stay on March 31, 2023. (Credit: Vatican Media.)

The pope’s Holy Week schedule includes Palm Sunday Mass this weekend, a Chrism Mass blessing holy oils used in the church’s sacraments Thursday morning; the Mass of the Lord’s Supper Thursday evening; a Passion service in St. Peter’s Basilica and a nighttime Via Crucis prayer at the Colosseum on Friday; and an Easter Vigil Saturday night and Easter Mass Sunday morning.

Pope Francis, who marked the tenth anniversary of his pontificate on March 13, extended thanks those who have offered prayers for his recovery and sent messages of support.

In a tweet Friday, he said, “When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God.”


This story has been updated with information regarding the pope’s visit to Gemelli Hospital’s infant neurosurgery ward and the health status of the infant he baptized.

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