February 26, 2005 in Nation/World

Recovering John Paul rests, eats

Tom Hundley Chicago Tribune
Associated Press photo

Concetta Mammalella, 85, prays with a rosary and a photo of Pope John Paul II in a chapel Friday in Naples’ Quartieri Spagnoli district in southern Italy.
(Full-size photo)

Global concern

Faithful offer prayers

» From Pope John Paul II’s hometown in Poland to heavily Roman Catholic Latin America, worshippers around the globe asked God’s blessing Friday for the man whose tireless travels brought the papacy closer than ever to far-flung congregations.

» In Mexico, where the 84-year-old pope has been received ecstatically five times, concern was high but attitudes were hopeful, especially after Vatican officials said John Paul was doing relatively well after a tracheotomy Thursday night.

» ”If he could survive a bullet, which is worse than what he is going through now, then hopefully God will want him to survive this,” said Marianela Hernandez, referring to the 1981 assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square.

» Priests offered prayers for the pope at Mexico City’s Basilica of Gaudalupe, but the atmosphere here and at other sanctuaries around the world was calmer than when the pope was first rushed to a hospital earlier this month with breathing difficulties.

» The archbishop of Washington led prayers for the pope at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where the pontiff prayed on his first visit to the United States almost 25 years ago.

» Perhaps nowhere were sentiments more fervent than in the pope’s native Poland.

» ”We wanted to wish him to carry his suffering like Christ did, that he accept this suffering as one more cross with which God marked him,” said Kasia Gryczowska, 17, after a Mass in the pope’s birthplace, Wadowice. “So all those who suffer will bear it with the same spirit.”

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II was resting comfortably and breathing on his own Friday, the day after doctors at a Rome hospital performed a tracheostomy to relieve a recurring respiratory problem.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope’s heart and circulatory system remain good and there was no sign of pneumonia, a major worry for elderly patients in poor health.

The tracheostomy involves opening a small passage through the neck to the windpipe and inserting a tube so air can flow directly to the lungs.

As a result, the pope will be unable to speak for several days, Navarro-Valls said.

Although this is the ailing pontiff’s second visit to the hospital in a month, and there are growing concerns about his ability to carry on as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Navarro-Valls was eager to appear upbeat about the pope’s condition at Friday’s briefing for journalists.

He said the pope had a hearty appetite, consuming a cafe latte, a yogurt and 10 small biscuits for breakfast.

He also said that when the pope awoke from the anesthetic after his operation, he wrote a note to his aides: “What have they done to me?”

“He meant it kiddingly, of course” Navarro-Valls said.

But the pope went on to write, “I am still totus tuus.” This is the pope’s Latin motto. It means “completely yours” and refers to the dedication of his mission to the Virgin Mary.

The pope’s return to the hospital just two weeks after he was discharged from a 10-day stay is hardly a good sign.

The pope was rushed to the hospital Feb. 1 after tracheal spasms caused severe breathing problems. The Vatican said the pope was suffering from the aftereffects of a recent flu.

He appeared to be making an encouraging recovery, but on Thursday the breathing problems returned and the pope was again rushed to the hospital.

The 84-year-old pontiff suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition that has adversely affected his speech, severely limited his activities and may impede his recuperation from the latest crisis.

Navarro-Valls stressed that Thursday’s surgery was an elective procedure, not an emergency one. But in St. Peter’s Square, the faithful were still concerned.

“I am very worried about the pope,” said Helen Reychler, a 26-year-old Belgian.

“He is really like a father to us all. He is such a `human-contact pope that when he is not there for you, you realize it very quickly. You miss that holy father spirit that is so comforting in this world full of anxiety.”

Elisabeth Young and Anne Charlton, tourists from London, said they had been following the news on Italian television and in the newspapers.

“I reckon he is probably near the end this time,” said Young, who is a doctor. “We were looking forward to seeing him at his window giving his Sunday speech, but sadly that will not happen. We will know over the next few days what is meant to be.”

Navarro-Valls said it has not yet been decided whether the pope will make his customary appearance Sunday. The next medical update is scheduled for Monday.

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