Mon, 07 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

Silent pope, in good form, blesses hospital crowd

Philip Pullella, Reuters/Rome

Pope John Paul, silent but appearing in relatively good form, blessed crowds for a second straight on Sunday from the window of the hospital where he was taken with breathing trouble 11 days ago.

Pictures of the frail, 84-year-old Pope were broadcast live from his hospital suite on large screens to the faithful at the Vatican where an aide gave his weekly Sunday blessing.

The Pope, wearing his traditional white cassock, sitting on an armchair and surrounded by aides and doctors, looked alert and rested. He moved his lips to join the prayer being said by the aide in St. Peter's Square and crossed himself.

He was later wheeled to the window of his 10th floor suite at Rome's Gemelli hospital. He blessed the crowd below several times and waved to cheering well-wishers.

The Pope appeared in much better form than he did during a similar appearance at the window last Sunday, which was the first time during his 26-year-old papacy that he failed to preside over the Sunday Angelus and pronounce the blessing.

The Pope, who also suffers from Parkinson's disease, has been in hospital since Feb. 24, when he underwent throat surgery to help ease severe breathing problems. He received earlier treatment in hospital from Feb. 1-10.

He is currently undergoing breathing and speech rehabilitation therapy. The Pope has spoken some words to aides in private but has not spoken in public since the operation.

In words read for him by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri in St. Peter's Square, the Pope thanked members of other religions who had been praying for his recovery.

"I want to express special gratitude for the closeness of believers of other religions, particularly Jews and Muslims. Some have wanted to pray right here at the hospital," he said.

"This, for me, is a comforting sign and I thank God for it, he said, speaking through Sandri, the deputy secretary of state.

There is still no indication when the Pope will leave hospital and if he will be able to participate in Easter services later this month.

Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the most important event in the Christian liturgical calendar and the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is one of the most intense periods for the Pope.

"Only the doctors can decide," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told