Pope Francis appears in good form and reads homily after the flu sent him to the hospital for tests

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis appeared in good form on Friday in his first parish visit outside the Vatican this year, delivering his homily and hearing confessions after a lingering bout of the flu had sent him to the hospital for tests and forced him to cancel some appointments last week.

In a strong voice with only occasional coughing, Francis read his homily aloud after a week in which he had regularly asked an aide to deliver his remarks to spare him the strain. He is still having mobility problems and uses a wheelchair rather than walk with a cane, even for a short distance.

Francis presided over a Mass and heard confessions at the St. Pius V church not far from the Vatican — his first parish outing this year. He had canceled some audiences over the past week because of what the Vatican said was a slight case of the flu.

He went to the hospital Feb. 28 for unspecified diagnostic tests, the results of which have not been released. He has been suffering on and off this winter from what he and the Vatican have said was a cold, bouts of bronchitis and the flu.

The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed as a young man because of a respiratory infection, and he often speaks in a whisper even when not sick. In 2021, he had a chunk of his colon removed and last year had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia and remove intestinal scar tissue.