by Elise Ann Allen
ROME (Crux) — One week after Pope Francis was released from the hospital, having been admitted for a bout of bronchitis, the Vatican announced that he will not preside over the late-night Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday as planned due to cold weather.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the Vatican said that “due to the intense cold in recent days, Pope Francis would follow the Via Crucis from the Casa Santa Marta, uniting himself to the prayer of those who will gather with the Diocese of Rome.”
The weather forecast at the time of the procession calls for temperatures in the high 40’s with light rain.
The statement did not say who will preside over the Stations of the Cross in the pope’s place, but it is expected that the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, will lead the traditional Good Friday Way of the Cross prayer at the Colosseum.
Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital last week after experiencing breathing difficulties and was diagnosed with bronchitis. He was treated intravenously with antibiotics and was discharged on Saturday and kicked off Holy Week by presiding over Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square the next day.
In a statement last Saturday, the Vatican said the pope’s Holy Week plans were unchanged, and that he would preside over his scheduled liturgies with a cardinal celebrating at the altar, which was the plan prior to his hospital stay.
Pope Francis presided over a chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday morning, during which the holy oils used in the church’s sacraments throughout the year are blessed, and he celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo youth prison Thursday evening, washing the feet of 12 inmates, including two women.
The juvenile facility was the same prison on the outskirts of Rome where the pope celebrated his first Lord’s Supper Mass on Holy Thursday after his election in March 2013.
Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate a Passion service commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion and death in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 p.m. Friday, with the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Friar Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa giving the homily.
Traditionally held at 9 p.m. at Rome’s Colosseum every year on Good Friday, the Way of the Cross procession is the latest event on the pope’s Holy Week schedule, which this year will take place in an uncharacteristically cold spring.
Pope Francis is also expected to preside over the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Square Saturday night, and he is scheduled to preside over Mass on Easter morning, after which he will give his traditional “urbi et orbi” blessing, to the city of Rome and to the world.
There has been no indication so far that the pope will miss any of his other planned Holy Week and Easter activities.