ROME – A gaunt-looking Pope John Paul II appeared in a live video Thursday evening to hundreds of young people who filled a Rome basilica to show their support and express hope that the ailing pontiff will travel to a World Youth Day event in Germany this summer.
In a brief appearance that lasted less than a minute, the 84-year-old pope made the sign of the cross to the crowd, which erupted into cheering. At one point, John Paul covered his eyes with a hand, and the live video signal cut out.
The pope, dressed in white vestments, did not speak during the video.
The use of television and video has become more important to John Paul’s papacy as the pope battles with his ailments and the Vatican seeks to reassure the world’s more than 1 billion Roman Catholic faithful that he is alert and in command of the church.
“We’ll see you in Cologne,” said one of the speakers in reference to the German city that will host the church’s youth celebration in mid-August. The trip is John Paul’s only scheduled foreign event of the year, a pilgrimage that has always been particularly important to him.
The prayer service in St. John Lateran Basilica was presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for Rome, who read a message from John Paul saying: “I know you always feel close to me and never tire of praying for me. I greet you and thank you from the heart.”
John Paul is convalescing at the Vatican following his release from Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic hospital on Sunday.
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