John Paul II Receives Ashes in Hospital

“Found Him Really Well,” Says Cardinal Ruini

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2005 ( John Paul II’s condition is much improved, according to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who visited him in the hospital.

The Pope received the imposition of ashes today in his hospital room. For the first time in his 26-year pontificate, he was unable to preside at the public rite of Ash Wednesday in Rome.

“The Holy Father presided this morning, in his room in the Gemelli Polyclinic, at the concelebrated Holy Mass of Ash Wednesday,” explained Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls in a press statement.

“Ashes, which were blessed by the Holy Father, were placed on him by the first of the concelebrants,” reported the director of the Vatican press office. That concelebrant might have been Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s personal secretary, according to sources consulted by ZENIT.

“John Paul II invited his personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, and the other doctors attending him, to participate in the sacred rite,” added Navarro Valls.

Cardinal Ruini, the vicar of the Rome Diocese, told journalists after visiting the Holy Father: “I have found him really well.”

“The Holy Father and I spoke about the Diocese of Rome and I was impressed by the fact that today, too, he wished to remember the diocese in the Holy Mass and at the beginning of Lent, as we did this morning in the Basilica of St. John Lateran,” the cardinal said as he left Gemelli.

Regarding the Pope’s health, Cardinal Ruini said: “I would like to leave everyone with a word of calm and full confidence.”

Filling in for the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Basilica was Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

The cardinal, referring to the Pope, said at the start of his homily: “We feel his spiritual presence among us and remember him with affection, praying to the Lord that he will grant him the necessary graces for his primatial charism, to confirm the brethren in the unity of faith.”

A petition was made for the Pope during the Prayer of the Faithful, “that he may be able to continue his pastoral ministry for the good of the Church and of the whole of humanity.”

The Pope spent a peaceful night at the Gemelli Polyclinic, his eighth since he was hospitalized Feb. 1 with complications caused by the flu. The Holy See plans to publish a statement on his state of health Thursday.

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