Pope Francis pulls out of Good Friday procession at last minute 'to preserve health'

Pope Francis pulled out of a key Easter ceremony at the last minute on Friday, reigniting concerns about the 87-year-old's increasingly frail health.

The Vatican said the pontiff withdrew from the Way of the Cross ceremony to "preserve his health" ahead of other events this weekend, the holiest in the Christian calender.

His armchair had been set out on the hill facing the Colosseum in Rome, where the ceremony was held, but was taken away as the announcement was made just moments before the start.

"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 Vatican said in a statement.

The pope had also missed last year's ceremony, which took place shortly after he was released from three nights in hospital with bronchitis, but the decision had been announced in advance.

Francis last month caught what the Vatican called a "light flu" that caused him to cancel some events, and he has on several occasions since asked others to read his speeches.


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