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Despite recent health struggles, Pope Francis is set to lead a busy Easter week schedule. The 87-year-old pontiff showed more vitality than in recent appearances where an aide had taken over most of the readings, as he read his pre-prepared texts at his weekly audience in full.

Francis used the opportunity to make fresh appeals for peace in Ukraine and the Middle East, and to greet two men in the audience who had both lost daughters in the Israel-Hamas war, referring to them as friends who had both experienced a form of crucifixion. Having struggled with bronchitis and influenza for over a month, Francis has had to limit public speaking, cancel some meetings, and undergo medical checks at a Rome hospital. Concerns about his health peaked when he skipped his Palm Sunday service homily just three days ago.

Despite these challenges, Pope Francis is set to lead several services leading up to Easter Sunday, including a symbolic washing of the feet ritual at a women’s prison on Thursday. Easter is a significant celebration in the Christian calendar, marking the day when Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. Despite mobility issues due to a knee problem, Pope Francis arrived at the Paul VI audience hall on Wednesday using a cane, eschewing the wheelchair he sometimes relies on. In good spirits, he made light of the last-minute change to the indoor venue due to rainy weather, reassuring attendees that while they might be cramped, at least they wouldn’t get wet.

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