Byline: DENIS BARNETT
Pontiff cant wait to get back to work
ROME, Italy (AFP) Pope John Paul II yesterday began a fourth day in hospital where the Vatican says he is continuing to recover from an acute respiratory infection, but doubts continue about his real state of health.
Doctors at Romes Gemelli Hospital have yet to give the goahead for the 84-year-old Pontiff to address pilgrims in St. Peters Square Sunday either via audio or video link from his hospital room.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told a press conference that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church dearly wanted to make his regular Sunday Angelus address, but a decision would not be taken until Saturday.
"This is an appointment to which John Paul II is very attached, and which he doesnt want to miss," he said, adding that he would "be more specific about the method" of the Popes participation later Saturday.
According to a Polish priest quoted by Italian newspapers, the Pope "continues to improve and he cant wait to get back to work at the Vatican," confirming Vatican assertions that the Pontiff is on the mend.
The priest, Pawel Ptasznik, who is a long- time friend of John Paul II, reportedly was one of the few people to be admitted to the Popes room on the Gemellis 10th-floor Friday.
But La Republica newspaper reported that the Pope was still unable to speak after the trauma of his emergency hospitalization late Tuesday with acute breathing difficulties.
The newspaper said in an unsourced report that the Pope, who in recent years has had to forego all but the shortest speeches because of difficulties in articulating his words related to Parkinsons disease, has only just begun to speak and was not yet ready to make a declaration.
Technicians from Vatican Radio were nonetheless reported to be making arrangements for a possible weekend broadcast from the Popes hospital room.
Meanwhile, around 100 Catholic and Orthodox bishops will hold a prayer ceremony for the Popes recovery in the second-floor chapel at the hospital Saturday.
The church representatives from around the world were in Rome for a meeting of the Saint Egidio movement, an international Catholic charitable organization and ecumenical peace group close to the Vatican.
His last public appearance before his illness was at the Angelus ceremony last Sunday, when he appeared at his apartment window with some children and released a dove as a symbol of peace.
The popes deputy for the Rome diocese, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, is also scheduled to attend the Angelus ceremony Sunday, which will be dedicated to a pro-life campaign promoted by the Italian conference of bishops.
Last Friday, Navarro-Valls said the Pope was "eating regularly," indicating that the infection had receded, after having earlier announced he was able to start sipping water.
He also said that the Pontiff would watch on television a ceremony in St. Peters Basilica Saturday for Rome seminarians, which he has attended every year for the past 25 years and which he was to have presided over himself.
Instead, the Popes deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, will read his prepared speech, the Vatican said.
Vatican describes Pope as improving
ROME (AP) Pope John Paul IIs flu and breathing problems were improving and he was eating regular food again, the Vatican said, without specifying when the frail, 84-year-old Pontiff could leave the hospital or resume his regular schedule. …