Sick Pope to remain in hospital

The Vatican has announced that Pope John Paul II will stay in hospital “for a few more days, the doctors have advised”, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said. He added he could not specify for how long and that another medical bulletin would be issued later in the week. Pope John Paul II waved to pilgrims after appearing at his hospital window on Sunday, where he is recovering from flu and breathing difficulties. He sounded hoarse as he gave the short, final lines of the Angelus blessing in his first public appearance since he was rushed to Rome’s Gemelli hospital. Crowds had massed for a glimpse of the 84-year-old pontiff and clapped after his appearance, while many others watched on large screens in St Peter’s Square. In a message read out on his behalf, he gave thanks for the prayers and support of pilgrims around the world and said he would continue to lead the Catholic Church as long as he was able. His speech had already grown slurred and in recent months was often incomprehensible due to Parkinson’s disease. He is believed to have suffered a laryngo-spasm, blocking the passage of air to the lungs, and there had been concerns that he could develop pneumonia. His heart and lungs are said to be performing normally and the Vatican has been keen to stress that this is not a life-threatening illness. But, for the first time in his long reign, the Pope will miss the Ash Wednesday prayer service in St Peter’s this week, marking the start of Lent.