Pope Francis baptises baby during hospital stay – and is set to return home on Saturday

Pope Francis baptises a baby boy called Miguel Angel (Vatican Media via Reuters)
Pope Francis baptises a baby boy called Miguel Angel (Vatican Media via Reuters)

Pope Francis has baptised a baby and greeted children in Rome's Gemelli hospital as he appeared to make a rapid recovery from a bout of bronchitis that caused him to be taken in for treatment earlier this week.

Francis is expected to return home on Saturday, pending the results of his latest medical tests, and is scheduled to take part in a Palm Sunday service the following day to mark the start of Easter Week celebrations, the Vatican said.

The pope, 86, was taken to hospital two days ago after complaining of breathing difficulties. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and has responded well to an infusion of antibiotics, his medical team has said.

Highlighting the pope's improved health, the Vatican released a video on Friday afternoon of the pontiff standing up and baptising a baby who was in a hospital cot. In a separate photograph, Francis was shown handing an Easter egg to a young child.

The Vatican said he stayed around 30 minutes in the children's cancer unit before returning to his own room.

The dean of the college of cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, has said cardinals will help the pope during Easter celebrations this coming week and take care of altar duties.

Holy Week, as it is known, includes a busy schedule of rituals and ceremonies that can be physically exhausting, including a Good Friday nighttime procession by Rome's Colosseum.

The pope was also forced to follow some of last Easter's events from the sidelines, due to persistent knee pain, with cardinals celebrating some of the Masses in his place.

Francis, who marked the 10th anniversary of his pontificate earlier this month, has suffered a number of ailments in recent years. He was last hospitalised in July 2021 when he had part of his colon removed in an operation aimed at addressing a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis.

"When experienced with faith, the trials and difficulties of life serve to purify our hearts, making them humbler and thus more and more open to God," the pope tweeted on Friday.