Pope John Paul’s condition is improving and he is expected to make his weekly address from his Rome hospital bed on Sunday, the Vatican said today.
The 84-year-old pontiff has not suffered any more breathing spasms, the Holy See said, but he may have to spend up to a week in the hospital to fully recover.
In a further sign that the Pope’s health had stabilised, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican would not issue another medical bulletin until noon Friday. The Holy See has said the Pope would spend a few more days at Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic hospital.
“The Holy Father’s general and respiratory conditions show a positive evolution,” today’s bulletin said.
“The Pope has rested well” with no repetition of the breathing spasms that sent him to hospital on Tuesday night, Navarro-Valls said. “He rested well all night, and the laboratory tests that were made give a satisfactory result.”
Navarro-Valls did not say exactly how long the Pope would remain hospitalised, but he told reporters: “In my personal experience, when I’ve had the flu, it lasts seven days or a week – take your pick.”
Vatican officials said the Pope was expected to deliver his weekly address on Sunday from the hospital rather than from his usual perch from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square.
Hospital spokesman Nicola Cerbino said the Pope was being attended by a team of three doctors, including his personal physician, the clinic’s emergency department director and an ear, nose and throat specialist.
The Pope is “recovering well”, said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who, as secretary of state, is the Vatican’s number two.
He said the Pope’s breathing problems could have been handled at the Vatican, where the Pope had been laid up since Sunday evening with flu. ”But the Holy Father, as everybody, entrusts himself to the doctors,” and the decision was made to hospitalise him, he said.
The Vatican said the Pope had suffered spasms of the larynx, making it difficult for him to breathe, and had an inflamed windpipe.
Apprehension over the fate of the leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics and one of the globe’s best-known figures triggered an outpouring of good wishes.
Even Mehmet Ali Agca, imprisoned in Turkey after shooting the Pope in a botched assassination attempt on St Peter’s Square in 1981, sent a hand-written letter through his lawyers wishing the Pope “a speedy recovery”.
The clinic treating John Paul is the same one he was rushed to after he was shot in the abdomen.
While anyone with the flu can develop respiratory complications, the elderly are especially vulnerable.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Vatican’s health care office, said keeping the Pope in hospital will afford “many means to stay ready for any complications,” he said.
John Paul, battling Parkinson’s disease as well as hip and knee ailments, has been in weak health for many years. But a leading Italian cardiologist, Attilio Maseri, who has treated the pontiff during previous hospital stays, said the pontiff has two enviable factors on his side.
“He has exceptional cardiovascular function, guided by exceptional willpower,” he said.
“If he overcomes the respiratory problems he’s suffering, he’ll certainly be able to go back doing what he was doing before,” Maseri added.
Although age and chronic health problems have slowed the pontiff considerably from his whirlwind pace of the early years of his 26-year-old papacy, John Paul has kept a remarkably strenuous pace.
His average week is spent working on documents, making appointments, meeting world leaders and appearing before the public at least twice a week.