Pope makes brief public appearance

He remains hospitalized for breathing problems

February 07, 2005|By Maria de Cristofaro and Sebastian Rotella | Maria de Cristofaro and Sebastian Rotella,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ROME - A feeble but determined-looking Pope John Paul II appeared in public yesterday 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. 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.

The chance for a glimpse of the pope yesterday drew worshipers, 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 the pope murmured the words of a blessing in Latin and made the sign of the cross.

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."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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