Pope delegates most activities over Holy Week
Vatican: Pontiff will appear for Easter blessing

Posted 3/8/2005 11:50 PM

By Eric J. Lyman, Special for USA TODAY

VATICAN CITY —Pope John Paul II has for the first time delegated the majority of
Easter season ceremonies to senior cardinals, the Vatican said Tuesday.
The announcement was the latest indication that the pontiff's health remains precarious
and that he may need to reduce his schedule.

The pope, 84, has been hospitalized at the Gemelli Polyclinic since Feb. 24, when doctors
performed a tracheotomy, a hole cut into the windpipe, to assist breathing after a bout of
the flu. He is undergoing speech and breathing therapy at the Rome hospital.

The Vatican said in a statement that John Paul will appear for his traditional Easter
Sunday blessing, but cardinals will preside over all other ceremonies during Holy Week,
March 20-27. The only exception: the Way of the Cross service at the Colosseum,
which the pope will celebrate if his health permits.

The statement said that the pope, who has been advised against talking by his doctors, might not be able to read his Easter blessing.
In the past, he has read the blessing in dozens of languages.

Holy Week, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus, is the most important period on the Christian liturgical
calendar. The normal papal Holy Week schedule includes eight lengthy ceremonies for the leader of the world's 1 billion Roman
Catholics, including two that take place late at night

The Vatican statement was the most detailed about the pope's plans since he entered the hospital for the second time last month.
Previously, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls would say only that John Paul would likely return before Palm Sunday, which is
March 20, and that the pope's Holy Week activities would depend on his health and doctors' advice.

Vatican watchers say John Paul's reduced activity is likely to continue. “I don't think anyone expects the pope to return to his former
level of activity,” said Marco Politi, author of books about the papacy and John Paul. “I would guess that, barring a dramatic recovery,
papal appearances in the future will be short and infrequent.”

Although a reduced schedule would be a dramatic change for John Paul, there is no church requirement that he attend Holy Week
services, said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, who has written books about the pope.

“This pope has been much more public and front-and-center than past popes. But it's not essential — sacramentally or liturgically —
for him to preside at Easter Mass” or other Holy Week events, Neuhaus said.

He noted it would not be the first time a pope limited his activities because of health concerns. Pope Pius XII, who died in 1958 at the
age of 82, at one point did not stray from the Vatican for 18 months. Over the last three years of his life, he spoke almost exclusively
through a personal assistant.
Copyright 2005 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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Pope John Paul II will offer a silent blessing
from his window Easter Sunday.