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Flu Prompts John Paul II to Halt Audiences

Symptoms Were Apparent Sunday

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II suspended audiences scheduled for today because he is suffering from the flu.

In a statement published today, Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said that “due to flulike symptoms, which began yesterday, the Holy Father has been advised to suspend the audiences scheduled for today.”

The symptoms were evident Sunday to thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square who were on hand for the praying of the midday Angelus with the Pope.

Although the Holy Father managed to express an amused smile when two children, who were with him in the Papal Apartments, released two doves in the air as a symbol of peace, his voice was hoarse and he had trouble breathing.

Navarro Valls said that, despite the flu, the Pope fulfilled one of his engagements scheduled for today, when he was presented a copy of the 2005 Pontifical Yearbook. The volume lists all the bishops of the Church, as well as people working in the Holy See’s organizations, religious congregations, and ecclesiastical and educational institutions.

The Holy See has made no plans for the Pope’s engagements over the next few days.

“We’ll have to see,” Navarro Valls told Vatican Radio. “As always happens with the flu, we must wait day by day.”

There has been a flu epidemic in Rome in recent weeks after the Italian capital suffered a severe cold wave.

The Pope’s health has been relatively stable in recent months. The last time he canceled an appointment at the last minute was Sept. 24, 2003, due to intestinal problems.

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