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Pope Francis Leads Easter Vigil After Health Scare



As the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar commenced, anxious eyes were on Pope Francis and whether his frail health would force further canceled appearances. Concerns mounted when the 87-year-old stunned the faithful by skipping the Way of the Cross procession at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday at the last minute to “conserve his health.”

However, the ever-resilient pontiff rebounded on Holy Saturday, presiding over the sacred Easter Vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Despite his recent respiratory issues and intestinal surgeries, Francis led the centuries-old ritual commemorating Christ’s resurrection before a global audience.

It was an inspiring show of stamina from the Argentine pope, who has soldiered on through a multitude of physical challenges during his decade-long papacy. And he did it all with the spiritual strength that has defined his groundbreaking tenure – and the devotion of his beloved wife and daughter.

Family Rock of Support

While the papacy is a solitary calling, Francis has frequently credited the unconditional love of his family as sustaining him through life’s tribulations. In fact, few realize that the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was actually a loving husband and father before his holy path diverged.

Francis married his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful Lucia Papaleo, in 1962 when he was just 26 years old. The young couple soon welcomed a daughter they named Angela in 1964.  

“She was the joy of our lives,” the Pope wrote lovingly about his daughter in his memoir, “From the Outset.” “Watching her grow and evolve filled our days with wonder.”

Tragically, their bliss was shattered in 1980 when Angela died suddenly at age 16 from a malignant tumor. Francis described it as “an immense darkness” that tested his faith like never before.

It was his wife Lucia’s strength, he has said, that guided him through the grief and prevented him from abandoning his religious calling. She supported his decision to take his final vows in 1992, solidifying his path to the papacy.

“My heart broke for him, truly,” Lucia told an Argentinian newspaper in 2013 about her daughter’s death. “But I told myself that God must have a higher purpose for keeping him.”

United in Sacrifice

Separated by the sacred demands of Francis’s work, the couple leaned on each other through daily prayer and a profoundly spiritual connection. Even when his rise through the church ranks made their lives extraordinarily public, their union remained a poignant constant. 

Lucia was always a dignified presence at his side, including at Francis’s installation as pope in 2013 – a historic occasion made vastly more personal by her loving embrace and kiss when he first appeared on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

She passed away at age 92 in 2021, having been her husband’s strongest pillar of support during his quarter-century tenure leading the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Through civil unrest, political turmoil, and church scandals, Lucia remained the quiet force holding their family together.

“She was my rock, my partner on this journey of faith,” Francis told the College of Cardinals at her funeral mass. “My priesthood and papacy would not have been possible without her selfless love.”

In turn, their daughter Angela’s shining memory has also inspired the Pope’s progressive ministry. Family photographs show her beaming, with a gentle spirit that mirrors her father’s famous humility and compassion for the downtrodden.

“I see so much of her in everything I do,” Francis has commented wistfully. “She is with me always.”

A Revered, Yet Relatable Figure

Perhaps that’s why, despite his lofty stature as the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, Francis has remained a uniquely accessible and relatable figure during his boundary-breaking papacy.

While he has faced no shortage of scrutiny – From his efforts to modernize church doctrine on abortion and LGBTQ issues, to his ambitious globetrotting advocacy for immigrants, the poor, and the environment – there is an unmistakable humanity that endears Francis to the faithful.

It is something in his warmth and humility, the twinkling wit and approachability that allows people to still view him as “Father Jorge” – a dedicated husband, father, and man of the people guided by an undeniable spiritual calling.

So when the Vatican confirmed at the last minute on Good Friday that the physically ailing Francis would not be able to preside over the evening’s solemn Colosseum ritual, it was not just a blow to those hoping to see their beloved pontiff officiate one of the most sacred traditions.

For countless faithful across the globe who have been inspired by Francis’s extraordinary yet extraordinarily humble ministry, it was cause for genuine family concern – a fear that the ravages of age and past health scares could be finally catching up to their spiritual leader.

A Comforting Icon of Resilience

That anxiety was soothed when Francis made his carefully choreographed entrance into the flower-adorned St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Saturday evening. Clad in an ornate white brocade robe, he crossed himself resolutely before cruising slowly down the center aisle in his wheelchair.

Then after cardinals swirling golden thuribles bathed him in ribbons of incense, the Pope found his voice. Undeterred by the tubes aiding his breathing, he began chanting the solume “Rejoice heavenly hosts and choirs of angels!” in his gravel baritone.

As Francis retold the millennia-old story of Christ’s triumph over death, his tenor grew stronger with each revered line. Gone were the coughing fits and strained silences that had plagued recent ceremonies.

Instead, this was a spiritually resounding and reaffirming moment. An indelible image of the unwavering pontiff rallying yet again in his mission – propelled by his devotion to his faith, yes, but also the enduring love and inspiration of his late wife Lucia and daughter Angela.

It was the picture of a global icon who has captivated the world across religious lines – by sheer force of personality, and his steadfast conviction that even the most imposing celestial responsibilities do not make one immune from the human struggles and family bonds that unite people across the planet.

As Francis beamed while baptizing the Easter vigil’s eight new adult converts and then firmly clasped new lambs to be sheared for sacred oils, he seemed to be conveying an uplifting truth:  

While forged from humble roots as a husband and father in Buenos Aires, his ministry has evolved into something truly universal and inspiring. By leading not just through scripture, but also the Christ-like values of empathy and compassion, Francis has found the rarest of spiritual paths – one where a life of extraordinary faith and family are seamlessly intertwined.

So when the Pope dutifully commemorated Easter on Sunday morning, delivering his Urbi et Orbi message calling for global peace, it was a voice of resilience that transcended any concerns over his frail health. 

Instead, he stood, once more, as a living embodiment of resurrected hope and universal love – one whose strength clearly still flows from the cherished memory of his wife and daughter.

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