ROME (NEWSnet/AP) — Pope Francis decided to skip his homily during Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis also didn’t participate in the procession of cardinals around the obelisk in the piazza at the start of Mass. Instead, the pontiff blessed palm fronds and olive branches carried by the faithful from the altar.

Francis had been expected to deliver a homily halfway through the service and a prepared text had been distributed to journalists. But when an aide presented Francis with his glasses to begin reading, the pope made clear he would not deliver the remarks.

Vatican officials didn't immediately explain why. The Vatican press office later said the homily was replaced by “a moment of silence and prayer.”

Francis did pronounce prayers throughout the service and offered a long appeal for peace at the conclusion of Mass. 

Vatican officials estimated some 60,000 people attended the Mass. Francis spent several minutes greeting them from the popemobile, making several loops around the piazza at the end of the service.

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