John Paul II Continues Convalescence in Vatican

Still Has Tube to Ease His Breathing

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2005 ( John Paul II spent a peaceful night in the Vatican, after leaving the hospital, and is preparing for Holy Week.

The Pope’s return home Sunday evening from the Gemelli Polyclinic was followed on television thanks to a cameraman of the Vatican Television Center, who accompanied him in a van.

The Holy Father, who could be seen next to the driver, seemed stronger than in recent days, although he was visibly thinner and somewhat drawn after his tracheotomy Feb. 24.

For now, John Paul II still has the tube inserted in his throat to facilitate his breathing. Doctors will decide how long it will remain in place. On Sunday, the Pope demonstrated that he could speak with sufficient clarity.

For the next few days, the Pope “will continue his convalescence,” said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls on Sunday. The Vatican is equipped with an nurse in case of an emergency; the Pope’s doctors and a number of Polish nuns are looking after him.

Antonio Cicchetti, director general of the Gemelli hospital, explained that during the Holy Father’s stay, “we had the impression of seeing a person who has enormous inner strength, and who transmits it also to others.”

“For us it was a great satisfaction to see him greet people from the window. We were impressed by his desire to communicate with people who came to the Gemelli to see him,” Cicchetti told Vatican Radio today.

The Pontiff is now preparing for Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday, March 20. The extent of his participation and presence in the various liturgical celebrations is still not known. A number of cardinals already have been designated to preside over the rites.

A calendar published March 8 by the Holy See announced that John Paul II will impart his traditional blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city of Rome and the world) on Easter Sunday. But it did not specify who will preside at the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday.

This Thursday, the Holy Father will follow on television a meeting with young people of Rome and surrounding dioceses, who will gather in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The event is in preparation for World Youth Day, Aug. 15-21, in Cologne, Germany.

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