Pope Francis greeted supporters for prayers on Sunday from the 10th floor balcony of his hospital where he is recovering from colon surgery.
"I am glad to be able to keep the Sunday Angelus appointment, even here" at the hospital, he said.
"I have deeply felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart," he told 200 people gathered below.
"In these days of being hospitalised, I have experienced how important good health care is, accessible to all, as it is in Italy and in other countries.
"A healthcare system that assures good service, accessible to everyone. This precious benefit must not be lost. It needs to be kept," Francis said.
The 84-year-old pontiff has been in Rome's Gemelli hospital since last Sunday, when he underwent planned surgery for an inflammation of the colon.
He temporarily ran a fever last week after his operation, but a chest and abdomen scan and other tests revealed no particular abnormalities.
"I would like to express my appreciation and my encouragement to the doctors and all healthcare workers and hospital staff," Francis said.
And the Church leader asked people to "pray for all the sick, especially for those in the most difficult conditions: may no one be left alone, may everyone receive the anointing of listening, closeness and care".