Pope Francis to skip Good Friday procession due to cold weather

The Pope was discharged from a Rome hospital on April 1 after a three-night stay for a bronchial infection.

Pope Francis speaks during his sermon as he leads a Christmas Eve mass to mark the nativity of Jesus Christ on 24 December 2020, at St Peter's basilica in the Vatican. Picture: AFP

ROME - Pope Francis, who is recovering from bronchitis and last week spent three nights in hospital, will not attend the traditional "Way of the Cross" prayer service on Good Friday, the Vatican said.

It will be the first time that Francis, 86, has missed the annual service, which falls two days before Easter -- Christianity's most important holiday -- in the 10 years of his papacy.

"Due to the intense cold of the past days, Pope Francis will follow this evening's Way of the Cross from Casa Santa Marta, joining the prayer of those who will gather with the Diocese of Rome at the Colosseum," the Vatican said in a short statement.

Santa Marta is the Argentine pontiff's residence within the Vatican.

An unusual cold streak in Rome has seen night-time temperatures fall to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) this week.

Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day Jesus Christ died on the cross.

The Way of the Cross service commemorates the 14 stations of Jesus' suffering and death, from his condemnation to his burial. The open-air procession begins at 1900 GMT.

Francis was discharged from a Rome hospital on April 1 after a three-night stay for a bronchial infection. The pontiff has suffered increasing health issues in recent years, and it was his second stay in hospital since 2021.

Ahead of the Way of the Cross, Francis presided over the celebration of the Passion of the Lord within St Peter's Basilica Friday afternoon, where he arrived in a wheelchair.

The pope has participated in various events since his hospital release, including washing the feet of 12 young prisoners on Holy Thursday.

On Sunday, he is expected to lead Easter mass at St Peter's Square.