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Pope prays for victims of oppression at Christian festival

by Agence France Presse

ROME. Italy: Pope Francis, who recently recovered from bronchitis, prayed for all “oppressed” peoples on Friday as he led the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in a cold and gray central Rome.

Francis, who has been in poor health in recent years, used a wheelchair and a cane to move around as he shook hands with the faithful and tourists at Rome’s Piazza di Spagna.

There he observed the annual tradition of praying beneath a statue of the Virgin Mary on what is a bank holiday in largely Catholic Italy.

Francis prayed for “all peoples oppressed by injustice and poverty, tested by war”.

“Look at the martyred Ukrainian people, the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, who have fallen into the spiral of violence.”

Earlier in the day he appeared for the first time in three weeks on a balcony at the Vatican overlooking Saint Peter’s Square to recite the Angelus prayer.

He also resurrected a tradition that had not been observed in 400 years by offering a “golden rose” to a shrine to the mother of Jesus at the Saint Mary Major basilica in Rome.

Friday’s celebration marks the Christian belief that the mother of Jesus was without sin.

The pontiff, who will turn 87 next week, was last week forced to cancel a trip to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai due to bronchitis.

Francis, who had part of a lung removed when he was younger, has suffered knee, hip and colon problems in recent years.

He also underwent an operation on his abdomen in June and in March he spent three nights in hospital with bronchitis.



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