Pope Francis returned to work Saturday after taking a day off with a fever, the Vatican said, with the pontiff set to hold several private audiences.

The 86-year-old, who was hospitalised with bronchitis nearly two months ago, had a full calendar of meetings lined up, it said.

On Friday Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni had said the Argentine pope was not holding audiences “due to a feverish state”.

It was unclear who the pope had been expected to meet with, as his agenda was not made public.

Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin blamed the pontiff’s busy schedule, saying he was “tired”.

Francis had eight meetings Thursday, according to his published schedule.

His next public appearance is Sunday’s mass at St Peter’s Basilica to celebrate Pentecost, followed by the traditional Regina Coeli prayer.

On Monday, he is scheduled to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Francis, leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics since 2013, has suffered increasing health issues over the past year, from persistent pain in his right knee to his recent hospital stay for bronchitis.

The episodes have sparked widespread concern and fuelled speculation that he might choose to retire rather than stay in the job for life, a choice made by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

In late March, Francis was admitted to hospital in Rome after having breathing difficulties, and stayed for three nights.

He was treated with antibiotics for bronchitis.

As he left the Gemelli Hospital on April 1, the pope smiled and joked with well-wishers, quipping: “I am still alive!”

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