Recovering pope reads prayer from Vatican window, visits Rome church

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis was well enough to read the Angelus prayer from a Vatican window overlooking St. Peter's Square on Friday, speaking unaided for the first time since suffering from an acute lung inflammation two weeks ago.

Marking the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope later visited the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and also read a prayer during a ceremony at a monument to the Virgin Mary in the city's Piazza di Spagna.

The pontiff, who turns 87 this month, had asked aides to help read his prayers and messages since late last month and cancelled a planned trip to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on doctor's orders after a bout of flu and the associated lung problem.

Wearing a full-length white overcoat on a cool day, the pope stood throughout the brief Angelus prayer, recited on Sundays and on all holy feasts. He also smiled and waved to greet the crowds in the square.

"I ask all the faithful ... to pray for peace in Ukraine, in Palestine and Israel and in all the lands wounded by war. We ask for peace, for hearts to be pacified," he said.

"There must be peace," he added.

He appeared to cough very briefly at one point and made no reference to his health during his appearance at the Vatican.

Francis used a wheelchair during the visit to Santa Maria Maggiore and for some of the time he spent at Piazza di Spagna.

He had said on Wednesday that he was feeling much better, although he added that his voice was still weak. A part of his lungs was removed when Francis was a young man in his native Argentina.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti and Keith Weir; Editing by Gavin Jones and Alison Williams)