Pope celebrates Mass in hospital room
Five days after a tracheotomy to relieve breathing problems, Pope John Paul II was able to say Mass in his hospital room, meet with aides and continue initial sessions of speech therapy.
Catholic News Service reports that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who brought the pope some papers to work on, told reporters yesterday that the pontiff had spoken to him - in two languages, German and Italian.
"The pope was able and alert, and he'll work on the things I brought him," said the cardinal, who heads the Vatican's doctrinal congregation.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters the same day that the pope's recovery was "completely normal" and that he had spent another peaceful night at Rome's Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic.
Navarro-Valls called the 84-year-old pope a "good patient" and said he was carrying on with breathing and speech rehabilitation exercises.
A day earlier, the spokesman had said the pope had no complications in his recovery phase and was in good condition.
The pope's ability to speak was one of the bigger question marks hanging over his recovery. Medical experts said that if the tracheotomy tube is left in, speech would be possible but more difficult for the pope and would not be as audible.
The Vatican has not said how long the pope is expected to remain in the hospital. Some church officials have said there should be no rush to return him to the Vatican.
Medical experts consider a tracheotomy a fairly routine operation, but given the pope's age and his frail condition the recovery period was expected to be longer than usual.
Insertion of a tracheotomy tube can be temporary or permanent. One Vatican source said he expected the tube to be left in to make it easier to deal with potential breathing problems in the future.
The tracheotomy compromises the pope's ability to speak. Dr. Fabrizio Stocchi, a neurological expert in Rome who chas been consulted in the past about the pope's condition, told Catholic News Service that the pope could talk again if the tracheotomy tube is closed, even temporarily, allowing air to pass through the vocal cords. But the voice level would be lower and making speeches would be difficult, he said.
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2 Mar 2005