Pope Francis, 86, says 'I'm still alive' as he leaves hospital in time for Easter

Pope Francis joked 'I'm still alive' as he cheerfully left hospital this morning following a three-night stay to treat bronchitis, News.Az reports citing Daily Mail.

The 86-year-old pontiff has finally been discharged from the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome where he was admitted after experiencing breathing difficulties on Wednesday.

Before leaving, Francis stopped to say hello to well-wishers and smiled at the crowd, joking 'I'm still alive' when asked how he felt. He was also seen to hug a woman in despair after her daughter had died just last night, according to the Vatican.

Then, as the crowds clapped, Francis headed off in the front seat of a white Fiat 500, ready to begin preparations for Holy Week and Easter - the most important week in the Christian calendar. 

Francis has now been admitted to hospital twice in three years, having being taken to Gemelli for 10 days in 2021 after suffering a type of diverticulitis.

Visitors to St Peter's Square on Friday expressed relief over his recovery. 'I was afraid for the pope,' said one 56-year-old Italian tourist who gave his name as Davide.

'But I'm happy he's better, that he's returning. For believers and the Catholic community, it's important,' he added. On the eve of his release, the pope visited the hospital's cancer ward for children, handing out chocolate Easter eggs and even baptising a weeks-old baby boy, according to a video published by the Vatican. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis had been working earlier on Friday in the hospital's private papal suite on the 10th floor and catching up on newspapers. On Thursday night, he ate pizza with some hospital staff. 

Francis previously said he would step down from presiding over mass if his health failed, but there are no plans of this, confirming today that he will be there on Palm Sunday.During the mass at St Peter's Square, he is expected to remain seated while another cleric - probably a senior cardinal - conducts the ceremony at the altar.


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