Sat, 12 Mar 2005


Pope steps up activity in hospital

VATICAN: Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass and met with visiting bishops from Tanzania in his hospital suite on Friday in a sign he was picking up his activity before returning to the Vatican.

The Vatican released a message he gave the bishops, urging them to resist programs linking economic aid to the promotion of sterilization and contraception and reaffirming the view that sexual abstinence outside marriage is the surest way to limit the spread of AIDS.

The pope's doctors have extended his hospital stay "a few more days" but the Vatican said he still plans to return in time for the start of Holy Week that begins on Palm Sunday on March 20.

Francesco Storace, the president of Rome's Lazio region, visited the hospital on Friday and said he was assured by John Paul's aides that the convalescence was going well. He said he was told "the pope is doing well and will get out soon."

Two prelates from Tanzania - Cardinal Polycarp Pengo and Bishop Severine Niwemugizi - attended a Mass with John Paul in his 10th floor suite at the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital, Vatican officials said. They came to Rome as part of periodic visits all bishops make.

"While I regret that I cannot receive you in the Vatican at this time, nevertheless I gladly welcome you," the message said. "I greet you all from the Gemelli hospital, where I offer my prayers and my suffering for you." --AP