Pope Francis leads Easter Vigil amid questions about his health

Pope Francis took part in the Easter Vigil service at the Vatican on Saturday, a day after the last-minute cancellation of his presence at a major Good Friday procession revived questions about his health.

The 87-year-old pontiff arrived to preside over the Easter Vigil at Saint Peter's Basilica in front of thousands of pilgrims from around the world shortly before 7:30 pm (1830 GMT).

A day after cancelling his appearance at the Stations of the Cross ("Via Crucis") ceremony, Pope Francis, clad in white, arrived in a wheelchair shortly before the two-hour service.

The Vatican had confirmed earlier in the day that he would attend.

After the rite of light in a basilica plunged into darkness to symbolise the passage from death to life of Christ, Francis was to deliver the homily and then baptise eight adults.

Sunday's Easter Mass and the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing that follows it will be broadcast live around the world.

In a brief statement Friday, the Vatican had said that "to preserve his health ahead of tomorrow's vigil and the Easter Sunday mass, Pope Francis will this evening follow the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum from the Santa Marta Residence", where he lives.

"The Via Crucis of a fragile pope" was the Saturday headline in Italian daily La Stampa, while Il Messaggero spoke of a "renunciation of Francis".


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