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VATICAN CITY — Looking tired but relaxed, Pope Francis today led his first major public ceremony since health problems forced a spate of canceled appointments.
Francis, 77, appeared to hold up well during the 90-minute Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to honor Saints Peter and Paul.
The Vatican has played down the cancellations, including one at the last minute on Friday, attributing them without elaboration to some mild health problem.
Francis, often chuckling, chatted with each of 24 archbishops kneeling before him to receive a white woolen band symbolizing shared episcopal power.
He later addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square and appealed for Iraq’s leaders to save the nation from further warfare.
Francis then did what he has started doing recently when greeting the public — asking for prayers for him, too. “Please don’t forget to pray for me,” he said.
These requests for prayers, combined with his recent quip that a pope’s job could be unhealthy and the cancellation of several appointments in the last few weeks, fueled concern that perhaps Francis was seriously ill.
The Vatican insisted on Friday “there are no reasons to worry about the pope’s health.”
June 29 is a Roman holiday, and for the occasion, Francis granted an hour-long interview to the city’s daily paper Il Messaggero.
“I found him in great shape,” his interviewer, Franca Giansoldati, told Sky TG24 TV Sunday. “Not so tired, no aspect that would mirror the alarm these days” about his health.
In the interview, Francis was quoted as saying he has learned a Roman dialect expression: “Live and let live.”
Francis also decried corruption, and child prostitution for clients “who could be their grandfathers,” during the interview.
“The changing of an epoch feeds moral decadence, not only in politics but in financial and social” spheres, he told the newspaper.