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Pope Francis skips the traditional Palm Sunday sermon during mass

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Pope Francis broke with tradition at the start of Holy Week on Sunday, skipping a last-minute reading of his annual Palm Sunday sermon during Mass.

Reuters reported that the pope was in front of tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square when he skipped the homily but continued to lead the service before driving off in the Popemobile and circling the crowd.

The 87-year-old pope has been suffering from bronchitis and flu in recent weeks, which led to him having his speeches read to him by an aide.

However, on Sunday, Francis’ prepared text was not read at all.

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Pope Francis sits

Pope Francis during his weekly audience at the Vatican on February 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and then leads to Easter. It is unusual for a pope to skip a homily at such an important event.

The Vatican offered no explanation for why Francis skipped the homily, and instead of pointing the cameras at the pope, they were focused on the crowd for several minutes.

A spokesman then said on Vatican Radio that Francis had decided not to read the homily. Nevertheless, he continued to lead the service and read parts of the mass.

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Welcome by Pope Francis

Pope Francis arrives at the Vatican for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The service, attended by cardinals, priests and bishops, commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, days before he was betrayed by Judas, tried and crucified on the cross.

Vatican police estimated there were about 60,000 people in the crowd, many holding palm trees and olive branches during the service.

Following the Mass, the pope delivered the weekly Angelus message and blessing on Sunday from the altar, rather than from a window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking the square, although that is not unusual at major events.

While saying the prayer, Francis condemned an attack on a concert hall near Moscow that left more than 130 people dead, calling the massacre a vile and inhumane act that insults God.

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He also asked for prayers for those suffering in Gaza, Ukraine and other war zones.

After the service, Francis drove around the square in an open vehicle while waving and smiling to the crowd.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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