Pope Francis was released from the Rome hospital where he was being treated for bronchitis on Saturday, telling journalists as he was being driven away, “I’m still alive.”
Francis, 86, was admitted to Gemelli Polyclinic on Wednesday after experiencing breathing difficulties after his weekly public audience. According to the Vatican, the pontiff was given antibiotics intravenously.
Before leaving, Francis shared an emotional moment with a Rome couple whose 5-year-old daughter died in the hospital on Friday night. Serena Subania, Angelica’s mother, sobbed as she pressed her head against the pope’s chest, who placed a hand on the woman’s head.
Francis appeared to enjoy lingering with well-wishers. When a young boy showed him his arm cast, the Pope asked, “Do you have a pen?” A papal aide handed one to Francis, who autographed it.
The pontiff answered in a voice that was close to a whisper when reporters peppered him with questions, indicating he did feel chest pain, a symptom that convinced his medical staff to take him to the hospital Wednesday.
Francis sat in the front seat of the white Fiat 500 car that drove him away from Gemelli Polyclinic. But instead of heading straight home, his motorcade sped right past Vatican City, according to an Associated Press photographer positioned outside the walled city-state.
The pope was reportedly on his way to a favorite basilica in Rome. After being released from the same maternity ward in July 2021 following intestinal surgery, Francis stopped to offer thanksgiving prayers at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, which houses an icon of the Virgin Mary.
According to Vatican officials, Francis will be in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday for the start of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter, April 9.