VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Three days after his tracheotomy, John Paul II made a surprise appearance at his hospital window to greet and bless well-wishers gathered outside.
For the first time in his 26-year pontificate the Pope missed the Sunday Angelus and his traditional address. In a message read by an aide at the Vatican, the Holy Father asked well-wishers “to continue to support me with your prayer.”
“The Holy Father is not with us, but he is following us from the Gemelli and offers his prayers and sufferings for us and for the world,” began Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, before reading the papal address to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“And we, from his square, united to him with great affection, pray with and for him,” said the prelate.
The archbishop, surrounded by acolytes, addressed several thousand pilgrims from the courtyard of St. Peter’s Basilica. John Paul II followed the event on television in his room at the Gemelli Polyclinic, a few miles away.
Several hundred pilgrims, many of them young people, gathered outside the Gemelli hospital to support the Pope with their presence and prayer.
“Once again I address you from the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic. I thank you with affection and feel that you are by my side spiritually,” said the Pope in the message read by Archbishop Sandri.
“I think of you, those who are gathered in St. Peter’s Square, whether individually or in groups, and of all those in all parts of the world who are concerned about me. I ask you to continue to support me with your prayer,” he added.
In his message, the Holy Father said: “The penitential climate of Lent that we are living, helps us to understand even better the value of suffering which, in one way or another, affects us all.
“Looking at Christ and following him with patient confidence, we are able to understand how all forms of human suffering bear within them a divine promise of salvation and joy.”
The Pope’s address concluded with his renewed “devotion to Mary, Mother of the Church: ‘Totus tuus!’ May she help us at all moments of life to fulfill the will of God. May my paternal blessing reach everyone.”
“Totus tuus,” “all yours” in Latin, is the motto of the papal coat of arms with which John Paul II entrusted his pontificate to the Virgin Mary. They were among the first words he wrote after his surgery last Thursday.
After reading the message on the Pope’s behalf, Archbishop Sandri imparted a blessing. Pilgrims were beginning to leave when all of a sudden the Holy Father’s white figure, seated in a wheelchair, appeared on large screens in St. Peter’s Square.
John Paul II, who was accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, looked serene. With his hand, he greeted pilgrims gathered outside the hospital. His window was not opened.
One of his aides pointed out one of the groups present, which the Pope had not seen. With his hand, he imparted blessings. Only once did the Pope touch his throat.
The Holy Father was re-hospitalized Thursday and had a tracheotomy to relieve respiratory problems caused by the flu, which sent him to the hospital for the first 10 days of February.
Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls said the Pope is recovering normally from his surgery. He is eating and breathing on his own, but will not be able to speak for some time.