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Pope Francis broke tradition during the start of Holy Week on Sunday by skipping his annual Palm Sunday homily at the last minute. The 87-year-old pontiff, who has been suffering from bronchitis and influenza in recent weeks, had his aide read his addresses for him. Despite his health issues, Pope Francis continued to lead the Mass in St. Peter’s Square and presided over the service before heading out in the popemobile to greet the crowd.

Holy Week, which marks the lead up to Easter, is a significant event for Catholics around the world. While it is unusual for a pope to skip a homily during such an important occasion, the Vatican did not provide an explanation for the last-minute change. Instead of focusing on the pontiff, the cameras were directed towards the crowd for a few minutes before an announcer informed the audience that Pope Francis had decided not to read the homily. Despite this, he continued to officiate the service and read parts of the Mass.

The Palm Sunday Mass, attended by tens of thousands of people including cardinals, priests, and bishops, commemorated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem before his ultimate betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. Many in the crowd were seen holding palms and olive branches during the service, a tradition that symbolizes Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city. Following the Mass, Pope Francis delivered the weekly Sunday Angelus message and blessing from the altar, a departure from his usual practice of delivering it from a window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the square during major events.

During the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis condemned a recent attack at a concert hall near Moscow that resulted in the deaths of over 130 people, describing it as a vile and inhuman act that offends God. He also asked for prayers for those affected by conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, and other war-torn regions. After the service, the pope took a ride around the square in an open-top vehicle, waving and smiling at the crowd gathered to see him. The Vatican has not provided further details about the pope’s health or the reasons behind his decision to skip the homily, but his presence and leadership during Holy Week were still felt by Catholics worldwide.

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