Byline: By Michael Wood
The Pope confounded sceptics who had his obituary ready to roll yesterday when he ate a hearty breakfast and silently joked with aides only hours after undergoing surgery to ease another breathing crisis.
John Paul is breathing on his own and is not suffering from pneumonia, the Vatican said, taking pains to cast his condition in a positive light.
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the frail 84-year-old spent a restful night at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, where doctors advised him not to speak for a few days.
He was rushed back to hospital on Wednesday night less than two weeks after being released following treatment for flu and breathing problems.
John Paul's latest health scare was certain to further fuel speculation about whether he could continue as Pope, and what would happen if he was incapacitated. Navarro-Valls said the Pope was given a mild anaesthetic and the operation that doctors performed to cut a small breathing hole in his neck "was not an emergency procedure".
"It was a question of assuring adequate breathing of the patient," he said.
Italian news agencies had reported that John Paul was placed on a respirator after the surgery, but Navarro-Valls said the Pope "had no need of assisted breathing".
"Assisted means mechanical, which wasn't used yesterday, nor last night, nor this morning. There was no need," he said.
John Paul had no fever, Navarro-Valls added. The Pope's postoperative condition was progressing normally and he was breathing better, he said. …