Pope says he is serving Church even while sick


Pope John Paul today thanked the world for the great concern shown for his health and said he was still "serving the Church and all humanity" from his hospital bed.

Speaking with difficulty, Pope John Paul appeared today at his hospital window for the first time since taking ill and said through an aide that he was still "serving the Church and all humanity".

The 84-year-old Pope, rushed to hospital last Tuesday with breathing problems, made a brief appearance from the window of his 10th floor suite in Rome's Gemelli hospital At the end of a message read by an aide, the Pope delivered his blessing in a voice that was faint, hoarse and cracking.

He then made the sign of the cross. At the start he was wheeled to the window while seated and wore his traditional white cassock and skullcap. His face looked red and his eyes distant as he waved slowly to the faithful.

The Pope sat silently while the aide, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, read his Sunday message for him. The message thanked people the world over for their prayers for his recovery and their get-well messages, which he said had moved him in a "particularly intense way".

Then, always speaking through Sandri, the Pope made clear that he was still in charge of worldwide Catholicism. "This way, even from here in the hospital, among other sick people to whom go my sincere best wishes, I continue to serve the Church and all humanity," the Pope's message said.

The words appeared to be a response to some reports that the Pope was not able to run the Church because of his various illnesses, including Parkinson's disease. It was believed to be the first time since his 1978 election that the Pope did not deliver a brief message on Sunday.

Even on May 17th, 1981, four days after an assassination attempt, he read a radio message from his hospital bed.

The Vatican has announced that the Pope will not preside at Ash Wednesday services in St Peter's Basilica at the start of Lent next week. It will be the first time in his 26-year-old papacy that he will miss Ash Wednesday.