Pope to remain hospitalized

Pope John Paul II blesses the faithful from his suite at the Gemelli hospital in Rome on Sunday.
Pope John Paul II blesses the faithful from his suite at the Gemelli hospital in Rome on Sunday.Alastair Grant / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Pope John Paul II will remain hospitalized a few more days as a precaution, the Vatican said Monday, a day after the 84-year-old pope appeared at his clinic window to show the world he was recovering from his latest health crisis.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope had no fever, was eating regularly and had been sitting in a chair for the past several hours. Officials said the frail pope's sixth night at the clinic passed calmly.

A day earlier, the 10-minute appearance at an open window gave the public its first glimpse of the pontiff since his hospitalization, which rekindled questions about his ability to carry on.

He looked rested and alert, and a message read for him by an Argentine archbishop standing beside him seemed to respond to any doubts about the pope’s readiness and ability to lead the Church.

“... In this hospital, in the middle of other sick people to whom my affectionate thoughts go out, I can continue to serve the church and the entire humanity,” the message said.

As well-wishers, many with tears in their eyes, gazed up at his 10th-floor window, John Paul gave his usual brief blessing. But his words, in a gravelly voice, were barely understandable.

In the evening, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls denied in a statement Italian media’s speculation that the pope’s words were taped — not live.

“Naturally, the words of the Holy Father in the blessing this morning were pronounced at the very moment in which we heard them,” he said.

Doctor warns of future health problems
The pope, who has Parkinson’s disease and hip and knee ailments, was rushed to Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic on Feb. 1. The Vatican has said he is steadily improving.

Although no date for his release has been given, the pope’s spokesman has suggested the hospital stay would last a week.

Dr. Corrado Manni, John Paul’s anesthesiologist, told the newspaper La Repubblica for Monday’s edition that “even if, as is certain, the Holy Father overcomes this crisis, in the future there could be similar relapses.”

“Unfortunately Parkinson’s can’t be cured — at the most it can be slowed down. And this entails a series of risks, including those that we have seen these days,” said Manni, who first administered anesthesia to the pope in 1981 after he was shot in St. Peter’s Square.

John Paul has been cutting back on his schedule in recent years and turning more of his speeches to aides to be read because of his difficulty speaking due to Parkinson’s. But until he came down with the flu a week ago, he has been in good form and recently confirmed he would visit Germany in August for a church youth festival.

The latest illness led him to cancel his first audiences in 16 months, and the list of missed appearances is growing. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy See’s No. 2 official, will meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, and American Cardinal James Stafford will lead an Ash Wednesday prayer service in the pope’s place.