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Pope scales back Palm Sunday role

Pope John Paul II, who recently cancelled several appearances because of knee pain, scaled back his participation in yesterday's Palm Sunday ceremony, taking the unusual step of letting a cardinal celebrate the Mass while he sat back in a chair.

A Vatican source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the pope's doctors have said that the knee condition is improving, the Holy Father still needs to take it easy. The pope at first resisted the doctors' advice that he not celebrate the Mass, but in the end gave in, the source said.

Palm Sunday's ceremony opens Holy Week, the most important liturgical period for the Roman Catholic church. Past Palm Sundays have seen the pope celebrate the Mass and lead a procession to bless palm branches held by the faithful.

The Vatican's bulletin did not say why Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini gave Mass in his place.

In recent weeks, the Vatican has said that doctors have ordered John Paul to limit his moving about to recuperate from arthrosis, an ailment of the joint that was causing persistent knee pain.

On Sunday, John Paul looked weary as sat in the armchair on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica and read the homily. His words were slurred and he read the homily at times hesitantly, but at the end his voice gained strength.

``The true force of man is seen in the faithfulness with which he is able to give testimony to the truth,'' the pope said.

John Paul also recited some prayers, and at the ceremony's end read aloud greetings in several languages, telling young people from Canada he'll see them in Toronto in July during a pilgrimage.


25 Mar 2002