Pope's hospital stay extended

Doctors have advised Pope John Paul to extend his hospital stay by “a few more days", but he will return to the Vatican by the start of Holy Week on March 20, his spokesman said today.

Doctors have advised Pope John Paul to extend his hospital stay by “a few more days", but he will return to the Vatican by the start of Holy Week on March 20, his spokesman said today.

“The pope would like to come back to the Vatican as soon as possible but accepts his doctors’ advice,” papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said after the 84-year-old Pope was rushed back to a Rome clinic with his second breathing crisis in a month.

Navarro-Valls said John Paul was speaking and would make another appearance at a hospital window this Sunday, but that it was not known whether his voice would be strong enough to greet the faithful.

“The Holy Father, following the advice of his doctors, will extend his stay in the Gemelli Polyclinic by a few more days, in order to complete his convalescence which is progressing regularly,” Navarro-Valls said.

The Vatican had not previously given a date for when the Pope was expected to leave hospital.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday on March 20 and culminates with Easter a week later. The Vatican has said the Pope plans to give his traditional blessings on Easter Sunday, but that the blessing was his only commitment so far.

John Paul has been recovering at Gemelli from surgery to insert a tube into his windpipe to help him breathe. He has been undergoing breathing and speech therapy.

Navarro-Valls said the Holy See’s next medical bulletin would come on Monday, suggesting the Pope would not be released before then.

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