An elderly women prays for the quick recovery of Pope John Paul II at a church in the pope's native town of Wadowice
Rafal Klimkiewicz  /  Reuters
An elderly women prays for the quick recovery of Pope John Paul II at a church in the pope's native town of Wadowice in southern Poland on Wednesday.
updated 2/2/2005 6:17:31 PM ET 2005-02-02T23:17:31

Poles prayed for Pope John Paul II in the church where he was baptized. Australian pilgrims sang songs as they held vigil outside his hospital in Rome. Mexicans gathered in churches before dawn to light candles.

The world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics were united in prayer Wednesday for the 84-year-old pontiff, who was hospitalized after suffering from the flu and breathing problems.

In Wadowice, the pope’s hometown of 20,000 people, prayers were offered at St. Mary’s church, where the young Karol Wojtyla was baptized and attended Mass years before he became a priest.

“I wish the Holy Father good health,” said Maria Pasnik, 46, a housewife. “I know the situation has improved, and I pray that we can see or hear him again in Wadowice.”

In Washington, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Americans’ “thoughts and prayers are with the Holy Father.”

And in the Philippines — one of the 129 countries John Paul has visited in his 26-year papacy — Ignacio Bunye, spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, called on the nation to join “the rest of Christendom in praying for the (pope’s) recovery.”

Early prayers in Mexico
Roman Catholics began gathering in Mexican churches before dawn Wednesday.

“May he recover rapidly, because we need him,” said Isabel Chavez, who attended a Mass at Mexico City’s Basilica of Guadalupe.

In Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, was expected to offer special prayers for John Paul during a Mass late Thursday in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The archbishop, a Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism, served as the pope’s special envoy to the commemoration ceremonies last week marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

In Poland, prayers for the pontiff also were held at churches in Warsaw, Krakow and at the private chapel of Poland’s Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp.

Walesa comments
Former President Lech Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity movement and a devout Roman Catholic, tried to lift the spirits of the faithful.

“Let’s not make a tragedy out of it,” Walesa told TVN24 television. “Let’s pray for our own health and especially for the pope’s health, and everything will be OK.”

The pope’s visit to Poland in June 1979 set off the sparks that helped establish Solidarity, the first independent labor movement in the Soviet bloc.

Outside Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, where the pope was being treated, Polish well-wishers offered red and white roses, and a group of about 10 Australian students played the guitar and sang “Wonderwall” by the British rock band Oasis.

Media attention in Italy was so focused on the pope’s condition that the Web site of the respected Repubblica daily displayed a timeline that was updated every few minutes, chronicling the pontiff’s condition and surrounding activities.

Some of the items included: “09:59: The pope takes breakfast” and “10:09: Mayor Veltroni arrives at” hospital.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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