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Pope leads long Vatican Mass after health setbacks

Published:Monday | June 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM


LOOKING TIRED but relaxed, Pope Francis on Sunday led his first major public ceremony since health problems forced a spate of cancelled appointments.

Francis, 77, appeared to hold up well during the 90-minute Mass in St Peter's Basilica to honour 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 symbolising 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, fuelled concern that perhaps Francis was seriously ill.

The Vatican insisted on Friday "there are no reasons to worry about the pope's health."