(Vatican City) ‘I’m still alive’: After three days of treatment for bronchitis, Pope Francis was discharged from hospital in good shape on Saturday, returning to the Vatican to prepare for Easter celebrations.

The 86-year-old Argentinian Jesuit suffers from chronic health problems. He uses a wheelchair due to knee pain and underwent colon surgery in July 2021.

On Wednesday, the Vatican said he was going to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for scheduled checkups, before admitting he had been having difficulty breathing and had a “respiratory infection” requiring antibiotic treatment.

The pope finally left the hospital on Saturday morning, visibly in good shape, happy to joke with the many faithful and journalists massed around the Roman establishment.

“I’m still alive,” said the pontiff, getting out of his little white Fiat for a few moments before heading back to the Vatican.

On Friday, he made a surprise visit to the hospital’s pediatric oncology ward, bringing the children chocolate eggs, rosaries and books.

Fran├žois also baptized a newborn baby a few weeks old. In a video and photos released by the Vatican, we see the pope, smiling, leaning on a walker, writing on a paper and sprinkling holy water on the head of the newborn.

The pope is to preside over Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter’s Square. This ceremony marks the beginning of Holy Week preceding the celebrations of Easter, the main highlight of the year for Christians.

The bishop of Rome had already been hospitalized for ten days at the Gemelli hospital in July 2021 for a major colon operation. He admitted to having kept “after-effects” of the anesthesia, which led him to rule out knee surgery so far.

The pain caused by this joint, which notably forced him to cancel several appointments in 2022 and to postpone a trip to Africa, is at the heart of conjecture on his possible renunciation.

The head of the Catholic Church has always left the door open to this possibility. His predecessor Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013, taking the world by surprise.

After having mentioned in July the possibility of “putting oneself aside”, he had judged in February that the “resignation” of a pope should “not become a fashion”, assuring that this hypothesis was “not on his agenda for the moment “.

The pope is constantly monitored by a team of caregivers, both in the Vatican and during his trips abroad.

A precaution all the more necessary as he has a heavy medical history behind him: at the age of 21, he almost died of pleurisy and suffered the partial removal of a lung.