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Pope jokes ‘I’m still alive’ as he leaves hospital after being treated for bronchitis

Pope Francis quipped that he is “still alive” as he left a hospital in Rome on Saturday after he was discharged following treatment for bronchitis.

The 86-year-old pontiff was taken to hospital on Wednesday after complaining of breathing difficulties, raising fresh concerns over his health.

The Vatican said that he was treated with antibiotics administered intravenously.

Before leaving the Gemelli University Hospital, Francis shared an emotional moment with a Rome couple whose young daughter died on Friday night at the facility, one of the largest private hospitals in Europe.

Serena Subania, mother of five-year-old Angelica, sobbed as she pressed her head into the chest of the Pope, who put a hand on the woman’s head, reported Associated Press.

The Pope also met a boy who showed him his arm cast, which he then proceeded to sign.

He was seen making a gesture as if to ask: “Do you have a pen?”

A papal aide handed Francis one, and the Pope autographed the cast.

Francis told reporters that he did feel chest pain, a symptom that convinced his medical staff to take him to the hospital earlier this week.

He later sat in the front seat of a white Fiat 500 car which drove him away from the hospital.

It was reported that instead of heading straight home, his motorcade sped past Vatican City.

The Pope was apparently heading to a Rome basilica which is one of his favourites.

The pontiff suffers from a range of ailments including shortness of breath, and has had respiratory problems in the past.

He had part of one lung removed in his early twenties when training to be a priest in Argentina.

He was treated at the same Gemelli hospital in 2021 to remove a part of his colon.

He suffers from diverticulitis, a condition that can infect or inflame the colon.

His latest hospital stay has revived speculation over a possible resignation on health grounds, which would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Benedict XVI, who died in December almost a decade after stepping down as head of the Catholic Church.

However, Francis has indicated he would follow the example only if he were gravely incapacitated.

Vatican officials said on Friday that the Pope would be at St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass to mark the start of Holy Week, which culminates on Easter Sunday, 9 April.

Additional reporting by agencies