Pope Francis, despite recent health struggles, appeared stronger on Wednesday as he prepared for a busy Easter Sunday schedule. The 87-year-old pontiff read his prepared texts in full at his Sunday audience, showing more vitality than in recent appearances where an aide has taken over most of the readings. Francis took the opportunity to make fresh calls for peace in Ukraine and the Middle East and to greet two men in the audience who had both lost daughters in the war between Israel and Hamas, calling them friends who had both experienced some form of crucifixion.

Despite mobility problems due to a knee problem, Pope Francis arrived at the Paul VI Audience Hall on Wednesday using a cane, eschewing the wheelchair he sometimes relies on. In good spirits, he made light of a last-minute change indoors due to rainy weather, assuring attendees that while they may be cramped, at least they won’t get wet.

Having battled bronchitis and flu for more than a month, Francis had to limit his public appearances and cancel some appointments. Concerns about his health peaked when he skipped his sermon on a flower bed just three days ago. Despite these challenges, the pontiff is scheduled to lead several services until Easter Sunday, including a symbolic foot washing ritual at a women’s prison on Thursday.

By Samantha Johnson

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