On Wednesday, Pope Francis made a public appearance in better health, walking into the Vatican audience hall on his own with a cane for his weekly general audience. He displayed a clear voice as he delivered the prepared text, marking his first public appearance since Mass on Palm Sunday.

Despite facing health challenges and exhibiting difficulty walking, Pope Francis spoke of the virtue of patience and called for peace during his audience. He shared the story of two men in the audience room, one Palestinian and the other Israeli, who both lost their daughters in the conflict in the Middle East. Despite their shared tragedy, they formed a deep friendship.

The Holy Week schedule is already busy for popes, but Pope Francis’ fragile health made it even more difficult. During winter, his struggles with the flu, bronchitis and colds worsened. However, he remained determined to continue serving his flock and delivering messages of hope to the world.

Before the general audience, Pope Francis met privately with Bassam Aramine and Rami Elhanan. He then warmly greeted them during the audience, highlighting the powerful testimony of these two people who experienced tremendous loss but chose friendship and compassion instead of hatred. The novel “Apeirogon” documents their story of friendship that spans decades despite being raised on opposite sides of a conflict-torn region.

By Samantha Johnson

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