- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope John Paul II blessed the faithful from his hospital window yesterday, looking frail and speaking with difficulty but determined to show he still can lead the Roman Catholic Church.

The 10-minute appearance at an open window gave the public its first glimpse of the 84-year-old pontiff since his hospitalization, which rekindled questions about his ability to carry on.

He looked rested and alert, and a message read for him by an Argentine archbishop standing beside him seemed designed to quell doubts about the pope’s readiness and ability to lead the church.

“In this hospital, in the middle of other sick people to whom my affectionate thoughts go out, I can continue to serve the church and the entire humanity,” the message said.

As well-wishers, many with tears in their eyes, gazed up at his 10th-floor window, John Paul gave his usual brief blessing. But his words, in a gravely voice, were barely understandable.

The pope, who has Parkinson’s disease and hip and knee ailments, was rushed to Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic Tuesday with breathing trouble brought on by the flu. The Vatican has said he is improving steadily and that the next medical bulletin would be issued today.

Under heavy police security and with TV cameras broadcasting the images around the world, John Paul was seated by the window wearing his usual white robes — a tiny bandage visible on his right wrist and a reddish mark on his chin.

Although no date for his release has been given, the pope’s spokesman has suggested the hospital stay would last a week.

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