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POPE JOHN PAUL II Pontiff makes public appearance



Published: Mon, February 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A cardinal says he hopes the pontiff will be released from the hospital soon.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

ROME -- A feeble but determined-looking Pope John Paul II appeared in public Sunday for the first time since he was hospitalized last week, waving from his hospital window and giving a brief blessing in a hoarse, faint voice.

The 84-year-old pontiff's 10-minute appearance reassured well-wishers that he is recovering from breathing difficulties that caused doctors to rush him to Gemelli Hospital on Tuesday night.

But his frailty was reflected by the fact that he did not deliver his traditional Sunday message and Angelus prayer. Instead, he sat quietly in the window of the 10th-floor hospital suite, clad in his familiar white cap and cassock, his head tilted to the right, while an archbishop standing next to him read the prayer and a message thanking the faithful.

"In the midst of the sick, to whom go my affectionate thoughts, I continue to serve the church and the whole of humanity," the pope said in the message read by Msgr. Leonardo Sandri. "May the expression of my gratitude for the sincere and heartfelt affection reach all of you, dear brothers and sisters, and to all those in every part of the world who are close to me, something which during these days I felt in a particularly intense way."

The pope's recent severe flu has been compounded by the effects of Parkinson's disease and arthritis. His breathing difficulties resulted from a condition called acute laryngeal tracheitis, an inflammation that can block the windpipe.

Drawing crowds

The chance for a glimpse of the pope Sunday drew worshippers, journalists and 20 television satellite trucks to the hospital on the outskirts of the capital. In St. Peter's Square, a few thousand pilgrims, tourists and Italians gathered in front of huge video screens broadcasting images live from the hospital on a cold, sunny day.

The crowds watched solemnly, and some people had tears in their eyes. They strained to understand as John Paul ll murmured the words of a blessing in Latin.

When he finished, listeners in St. Peter's Square broke into applause and released giant green balloons into the air. Afterward, the faithful expressed concern about the latest health crisis mixed with relief that the pope has again demonstrated resilience.

"God protects him, this is why he is still alive," said Teresina Chosignano, 67, outside the Trinita dei Monti parish church in central Rome. "He fills my life with joy. He is like a grandfather to all of us. His will is very strong. He won't die so soon."

Italian commentators said the appearance dispelled doubts about the pontiff's condition that had persisted despite periodic medical reports from the Vatican. A new medical update is expected today. Vatican aides have already said John Paul ll will miss this week's Ash Wednesday celebration for the first time since his papacy began in 1978.

The Vatican's second-highest-ranking authority, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said Saturday that he hoped the pontiff would be released from the hospital "within a few days."




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