Pope Francis joked “I’m still alive” as he left hospital following treatment for a respiratory infection.
The 86-year-old was discharged on Saturday morning after being admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital on Wednesday to be treated for bronchitis.
He embraced a couple whose daughter had died on Friday night at the hospital and signed a boy’s cast before leaving in a white Fiat 500.
“I wasn’t frightened, I’m still alive,” he also told reporters in a light-hearted remark before being driven away.
The Vatican confirmed the pontiff will be at St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass to mark the start of Holy Week.
Pope Francis – who had part of one lung removed as a young man – had complained of breathing difficulties before being admitted to hospital on Wednesday for tests.
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“The tests showed a respiratory infection (COVID-19 infection excluded) that will require some days of medical therapy,” a statement said.
He was treated with antibiotics administered intravenously, the Vatican said.
On Thursday, spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Pope had rested well overnight and was working from his room at the hospital.
While in hospital, the pontiff baptised a baby during a visit to a paediatric oncology ward, where he also brought children rosaries, chocolate easter eggs and copies of an Italian book for children about Jesus.
Previous health conditions
Pope Francis, who marked the 10th anniversary of his pontificate in March, previously spent 10 days at the Gemelli hospital in 2021 following surgery for an intestinal narrowing, when 33cm (13in) of his colon was removed.
He used a wheelchair for over a year due to strained ligaments in his right knee and a small knee fracture. He has said the injury was healing and he has been walking more with a cane lately.
He said he resisted having surgery for the knee problems because he did not respond well to general anaesthetic during the 2021 intestinal surgery.