VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2005 ( It is hoped that John Paul II, still hospitalized after his tracheotomy, will be able to spend Holy Week in the Vatican, a spokesman says.

Joaquín Navarro Valls read a statement today affirming, "The general health conditions of the Holy Father continue to improve, which allows the Pope to spend long periods of the day in an armchair."

"No complications have arisen because of the tracheotomy surgery," which the Pope underwent Feb. 24, added the director of the Vatican press office.

"Continual improvement can also be seen in speaking, thanks to the daily rehabilitations sessions," he explained.

"Furthermore, doctors have prescribed a prudent limitation to the Pope's use of his voice so as to promote a better recuperation of the function of the larynx," Navarro Valls added.

"We hope that the Pope will be in the Vatican for Holy Week," which begins March 20, said the Vatican spokesman.

He said that the date of the Pontiff's discharge from the Gemelli Polyclinic "will be decided by the doctors."

Regarding the Holy Father's participation in the Holy Week rites, Navarro Valls said: "When the Pope is in the Vatican, he will decide the way in which he will participate in the calendar of celebrations," in keeping with "the advice of the doctors."

"For the time being the tube is retained in the Pope's trachea; the doctors will decide what has to be done," the spokesman said. Last Thursday he reported: "The surgical wound is on the mend."

On Sunday, after the recitation of the Angelus, John Paul II appeared at his hospital window to greet and bless the faithful. He seemed more rested and energetic.

Vatican spokesman Navarro Valls said the next statement on the Pope's health will be made Thursday.

Many of the news media's special personnel have left Rome, demonstrating that there is now less concern about the Holy Father's health.

Television teams are still camped next to the hospital, however. Only a small number of journalists were on hand at the Vatican press office auditorium today to hear the statement by Navarro Valls. In previous days the auditorium was crowded for such press statements.

Since last week, the Holy Father has been handling the key questions of Church governance from his room, where he receives aides.

On Sunday afternoon, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru, visited the Gemelli hospital, as did the bishops of Tanzania, who are making their five-yearly visit to Rome.