ROME — Argentinian Cardinal Leonardo Sandri will substitute Pope Francis in the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square due to the pontiff’s ill health, the Vatican has announced.
Sandri, the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Eastern Churches, revealed that he had been informed last Monday that he would celebrate Palm Sunday Mass, which kicks off the Holy Week celebrations that will culminate with Easter Sunday.
“Yes, of course, I can confirm that I will celebrate the Mass of the Palms on Sunday,” Sandri said. “I was warned already last Monday by the Master of Papal Ceremonies that the Holy Week liturgies would each be celebrated by a cardinal, and they asked me for Palm Sunday.”
The Vatican reportedly still hopes that Pope Francis will be well enough to preside over the Easter Mass, which will be officiated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and that the pope will be able to impart the Urbi et Orbi blessing from the central loggia of the Basilica.
Palm Sunday falls on April 2 this year, the 18th anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. On that day in 2005, when the pontiff could no longer speak, it was the same Cardinal Sandri who spoke in the pope’s place.
Pope Francis spent his second night in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital Thursday, after being rushed in an ambulance Wednesday afternoon after complaining of breathing difficulties and pains in his chest.
The pope is currently being treated for a “respiratory infection,” which will require several days in hospital. On Thursday, papal spokesman Matteo Bruni said that Francis is being treated with antibiotics for viral bronchitis.
According to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, no one knows exactly what is wrong with the pope, and the official bulletin from the Vatican Press Office has only served to confuse people more.
Just weeks ago, Pope Francis celebrated his tenth anniversary as pope to mixed reviews. In 2013 he was elected as the first pontiff from Latin America and the first from the Jesuit order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola.