'Still alive' says pope as he leaves hospital

ROME – Pope Francis told journalists he is "still alive" as he left a Rome hospital Saturday after two days' treatment for a bronchial infection.

Asked how he felt, the 86-year-old pontiff replied: "Still alive, you know".

Francis, who often uses a wheelchair because of a bad knee, was standing up but leaning on a stick.

Talking about the illness that brought him to Gemelli Hospital, the pope said "I just felt a malaise, but I wasn't afraid" when he felt ill and needed assistance after Wednesday's general audience in St Peter's Square.

A journalist observed that the pope had not stopped doing his duties while in hospital, praying, and visiting a children's cancer ward where he baptized a boy, Miguel Angel.

"It's the most beautiful thing, to be a priest," replied the Argentine pontiff.

Speaking to another journalist he knows, Francis said "did you see all the mess (they created)", referring to the media hype surrounding his hospital stay, which revived speculation he might resign like his predecessor Benedict XVI if he gets too ill to do his job, as he has promised.

The Holy See said in a statement that the pope had said goodbye to all the staff and chiefs of the department, as well as the rector of the Catholic University attached to the Gemelli, Franco Anelli, and the Gemelli's director general, Marco Elefanti, thanking all the medical staff for the care they had taken of him.

Finally, Francis confirmed he would say Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's on Sunday, saying "tomorrow I will celebrate Palm Sunday". (ANSA)