Pope Francis did not attend the sermon at Palm Sunday Mass

(CNN) —Pope Francis unexpectedly skipped a sermon during this Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican.

A sermon is a sermon during which the Pope explains the scriptures and their meaning in today’s world.

The Pope presided over the service marking the beginning of Holy Week, the holiest week of the church calendar, as Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter. Francis was to give a sermon (reflection) and his decision not to participate was a surprise.

In recent weeks, the 87-year-old pontiff had read many of his speeches to his aides after suffering a health problem that sent him to hospital to undergo tests on February 28.

During the winter months, Francisco has struggled with bronchitis, colds and flu. While the Pope occasionally skips an Easter Sunday sermon, this is the first time he has not given a sermon on Easter Sunday. Francis spoke during the mass, read prayers and gave his blessing.

He also prayed the Angelus at the conclusion of the liturgy, before remembering the “martyrs of Ukraine” and those who suffered from the war. At the end of the liturgy, he personally greeted the cardinals from his wheelchair, which he has been using for several months. He then boarded the Popemobile to greet the people in the square.

Yesterday, the Pope met with staff at Italian state broadcaster RAI, where he gave a speech and spoke at length at a parish outside Rome on March 8. Holy Week and Easter are an intense agenda for the Pope.

On Thursday he would travel to a prison outside Rome to perform the ritual of foot washing with the prisoners, and on Good Friday he would attend services at St Peter’s and the Colosseum.

On Easter Saturday evening he will preside over a long evening liturgy and on Easter Sunday he will offer his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing to the city of Rome and the world.


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