Image: Monaco's Prince Rainier.
Eric Gaillard  /  Reuters FILE
Prince Rainier of Monaco, 81, seen in this Nov. 19, 1999, file photo, was on a respirator Friday, in the intensive care unit of Monaco's Cardiothoracic Center.
updated 3/27/2005 8:33:59 AM ET 2005-03-27T13:33:59

Prince Rainier III of Monaco is conscious and his heart, lung and kidney functions have stabilized, the royal palace said Sunday, as worshippers in Monaco attended Easter Mass with a special prayer for Europe’s longest serving ruler.

The medical update came a day after the palace issued the most pessimistic report yet on his prospects for survival for the 81-year-old monarch, who remains on a respirator.

“The cardiac, lung and kidney functions that did not stop deteriorating have stabilized,” the palace said in the new health bulletin, signed by three doctors.

Rainier “is conscious, but under sedation, which allows him to withstand respiratory assistance that is absolutely indispensable,” it said.

The prince’s prognosis remains “very reserved,” the palace said — apparently a notch less severe than the “extremely reserved” judgment given by doctors on Saturday. Rainier’s health remains “worrisome,” it said.

Prayers offered
At Monaco Cathedral, where the prince married the American actress Grace Kelly in 1956, some worshippers sat in pews with copies of Monaco Matin newspaper before Mass began.

“Prince Rainier: The Worst Ever,” read the front-page headline. Archbishop Bernard Barsi, who led the Mass, had visited the hospital on Saturday, the newspaper reported.

In his call to prayer, Barsi said the health of both Rainier and of Pope John Paul II “worries us greatly.”

“May God support them in their ordeal. May they know that they can count on our prayers and our affection,” he said.

Rainier, who has suffered ill health in recent years, was hospitalized at the Cardio-Thoracic Center on March 7 with a chest infection. He was transferred to the intensive care unit Tuesday when his health took a sudden turn for the worse.

Rainier, who has ruled Monaco since 1949, is beloved in the tiny principality he transformed into a modern and elegant enclave for the rich.

His family, the Grimaldis, have ruled Monaco for more than 700 years. His son Albert, 47, long groomed to take Rainier’s mantle as monarch, would take the title His Serene Highness. Albert’s sister, Princess Caroline, 48, would be next in line to the throne, followed by her eldest son, Andrea, now 20.

Princess Grace, who died in a 1982 car crash, is buried in the crypt of the 19th century cathedral that sits on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean not far from the palace.

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