Pope is expected to be released from the hospital on Saturday

Pope Francis is expected to be released from hospital on Saturday, the Vatican said on Friday after he was released unexpectedly hospitalized earlier in the week for a respiratory infectionwhich sparked worldwide concern.

The Vatican said in a statement that the pope will be allowed to leave the hospital after undergoing some final tests on Friday.

The pope, 86, was being treated with antibiotics for bronchitis, according to the Vatican, which has given few further details about his condition.

The Vatican said Francis would participate in the Palm Sunday service in St Peter’s Square this weekend before the start of Holy Week celebrations.

Reporters and television crews loitered on a lawn in front of the hospital, hoping to catch a glimpse of activity behind the windows of the suite where the Pope lay to rest.

Matteo Bruni, the Vatican’s spokesman, said in a statement that Francis had eaten pizza on Thursday and his recovery had been “normal”.

He also said that Francis had breakfast, read some newspapers and started work on Friday.

“I’m sure he’s going to make it — he’s got such a strong mind,” said Annamaria Montio, 33, a physiotherapist student at Rome’s Policlinico A. Gemelli Hospital, where Francis was admitted on Wednesday for a series of tests.

She said Francis, who has had a number of other health problems, was in good hands at the hospital, which also hosted Pope John Paul II.

Despite the news that the pope’s return to the Vatican was imminent, there were lingering concerns about the pope’s health.

“If they took him to the hospital, it means he was really not well,” said Paola Giuliani, 71, who sat on a bench in front of the main entrance of the Rome clinic. The fact that he was hospitalized was a “sign” that couldn’t be ignored, she said.

Across town from the hospital, tourists patiently waiting in a security check line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica shared a similar feeling.

“No believer will want to see the pope suffer. What matters is that he gets better as soon as possible,” said Gianmarco Cabibbo, 35, a firefighter from Sicily who was on holiday in Rome with his family. “He’s old – he needs to take care of himself as much as possible,” said Mr. Cabibbo. “He is very close to the people and we are close to him.”