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Pope Francis skips homily at Palm Sunday Mass in rare move

Pope Francis unexpectedly skipped delivering his homily during the Palm Sunday Mass service at the Vatican on Sunday, although was able to preside over the service and was later driven around in the popemobile.

The service marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred week in the church’s calendar as Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter, and his decision to skip the homily (reflection) was a surprise.

The 87-year-old has in recent weeks had aides read out several of his speeches after suffering from a bout of ill health, which on 28 February saw him go to hospital for tests.

Over the winter months, Francis has battled with bouts of bronchitis, cold and flu.

While the pope has occasionally skipped homilies on Easter Sunday, it is the first time he has not given a homily on Palm Sunday.

Francis did speak during the Mass, reading prayers and giving his blessing. He also prayed the Angelus at the conclusion of the liturgy, beforehand recalling the “martyred people of Ukraine” and those suffering from war.

At the end of the liturgy, he greeted cardinals individually from his wheelchair, which he has been using for several months. He then got into the popemobile to greet some of the thousands of people gathered in the square.

Following the service, he also condemned the “vile” concert hall shooting in Moscow. Francis told the crowd at St. Peter’s Square that he was praying for the “victims of the vile terrorist attack,” the worst that Russia has suffered in recent decades.

On Saturday, the pope met with employees from Italian state broadcaster RAI where he delivered a speech and on 8 March spoke at length at a parish in Rome.

Holy Week and Easter is an intense schedule for the pope. He is to travel to a prison outside of Rome on Thursday to celebrate the foot washing ritual with female prisoners, and on Good Friday be present at services in St Peter’s and the Colosseum.

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

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