VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2005 ( L'Osservatore Romano welcomes John Paul II home after nine days in the hospital by paying him homage on the front page of the daily journal.

"His hand is always on the helm," reads the headline on the front page of Saturday's Italian edition.

Reporting on the Pope's departure from the Gemelli Polyclinic and his arrival at the Vatican on Thursday night, the Vatican newspaper describes how the residents of the Eternal City took to the streets to see the Pontiff, who blessed them as he drove past.

"Whoever prays has his hand on the helm of history," added columnist Giampaolo Mattei, quoting the words of a father of the Church.

"John Paul II, man of prayer and totally abandoned to the will of Christ and in the arms of His Mother, through suffering turned into prayer, manifests to humanity that his hand steers the rudder," he added.

"The experience of illness and frailty is today a hidden condition; it is considered a weak dimension of life and tends to be perceived as an unacceptable mortification. John Paul II, with the strength of the man of God and of the witness of the truth of Christ, reverses this dominant idea," he said.

"He witnesses the great salvific value of pain lived in a Christian way. From the dawn of his pontificate he has appealed to the sick to support his Petrine mission with their prayers. The mystery of the redemption of the world is surprisingly rooted in suffering and the latter, in turn, finds in it its supreme and surest point of reference," he stated.