VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, marking Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square, ignored his prepared homily and spoke entirely off-the-cuff in a remarkable departure from practice.
Later, he continued to stray from the script by hopping off his popemobile to pose for selfies with young people. He also sipped tea passed to him from the crowd.
In his homily, Francis called on people, himself included, to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives.
"Has my life fallen asleep?" Francis asked after listening to a Gospel account of how Jesus' disciples fell asleep shortly before he was betrayed by Judas before his Crucifixion.
"Am I like Pontius Pilate, who, when he sees the situation is difficult, washes my hands?"
He sounded tired, frequently pausing to catch his breath, as he spoke for about 15 minutes in his homily during Palm Sunday Mass, which solemnly opens Holy Week for the Roman Catholic Church.
Francis seemed to regain his wind after the 2½-hour ceremony. He shed his red vestments atop his plain white cassock and chatted amiably with cardinals.