Pope Francis cheerfully greets people after leaving hospital | USA TODAY

Pope Francis was discharged from the hospital after he was treated for bronchitis. The Vatican said his recovery had been "normal."

RELATED: Little boy runs up stairs to Pope Francis's side

Pope Francis was discharged on Saturday from the Rome hospital where he was treated for bronchitis, joking to journalists before being driven away: "I'm still alive."

On Wednesday, the 86-year-old pontiff was admitted to Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic hospital โ€“ where he was being treated with antibiotics administered intravenously for bronchitis. The Vatican added Francis had experienced difficult breathing in days leading up to his hospitalization.

Francis sat in the front seat of the white Fiat 500 car that drove him away from Gemelli Saturday morning. When speaking with journalists, he thanked the medical workers at the hospital, noting that they "show great tenderness."

The Vatican said that before departing Gemelli, Francis lingered with patients and families at the hospital. He signed the arm cast of a young boy and hugged a couple whose daughter died Friday night at Gemelli, expressing words of comfort.

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