Letter from Rome

The 82-year-old pope looks increasingly like a man rushing to complete a mission
Letter from Rome

Pope Francis blesses worshipers upon his arrival for the weekly general audience on May 8 at St. Peter's square in the Vatican. (Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP)

The first rays of dawn had barely begun to rise over a cloudy St. Peter's Square and the Vatican. But at 6:20 a.m. on Sunday, May 5, Pope Francis was already on his way to Rome's Fiumicino Airport where, 40 minutes later, he would embark on a two-hour flight to the Bulgarian capital of Sophia.

It was an early start to the 82-year-old pope's latest foreign journey, this one a three-day visit to three cities in Bulgaria and neighboring North Macedonia.

Francis participated in no less than ten public events, delivering a dozen talks and homilies during the trip. It would be just minutes before 8 p.m. when his return flight landed safely in Rome on the following Tuesday.

After stopping at the papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in the center of the city to give thanks for the journey in the chapel containing the famed Byzantine icon of Mary known as Salus Populi Romani, he was back at the Vatican at his Santa Marta Residence. For a man of his age, one would have expected the pope to rest up a bit — or at least take a mental health day — before jumping back into his regular schedule of activities. But not Francis.

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