Pope unable to speak Easter blessing
Posted 3/27/2005 2:34 AM

By Eric J. Lyman, Special for USA TODAY

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II's traditional Easter Sunday blessing was reduced to a
few hand gestures from his apartment window after the ailing pontiff tried but failed to speak to
thousands of faithful in St. Peter's Square.

It was the first time during his 26-year papacy that John Paul, 84, failed to preside over a single
event during Holy Week. The eight-day period culminates with Easter, the day the New
Testament says Christ rose from the dead and the most important date on the Roman Catholic

John Paul had been officially scheduled only to conduct the Easter blessing. As he sat at his
window and followed the service presided over by Cardinal Angelo Sodano — the pope's
stand-in at several Holy Week functions — it seemed he would address the crowd.

An announcer on a loudspeaker told the crowd of about 110,000 that the pontiff would give a
special blessing. A microphone was placed in front of him, but John Paul managed only a few
raspy sounds. After it became clear he would not be able to speak, the microphone was pulled
away, and he made the sign of the cross several times.

The six-minute appearance was his longest since he was hospitalized twice last month for breathing problems caused by the flu.
Doctors performed a tracheotomy during his second hospitalization; a tube was inserted at the base of his throat to help him breathe
during the procedure Feb. 24.

At Sunday's service, Sodano read the pope's annual Urbi et Orbi (Latin for "to the city and the world") message. In his message, the
pope called for peace in the Middle East and Africa. He also wished for "peace for all of humanity, still threatened by fratricidal wars."

Even the pope's brief and mostly silent appearance seemed enough for many in the Easter Sunday crowd. "I had prayed that he
would be well enough for us to see him, and he was," said Joanna Siez, 40, a schoolteacher from Toronto. Siez jumped up and down
and clapped when the pope was pushed to the apartment window in a wheelchair. "We all wish him well."

"The pope is always praying for us, but this time, I came here to pray for him," said Wtodek Skrzypinski, 62, who was with a group of
around 30 pilgrims from Gdansk, a city in the pope's native Poland.

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This article originally appeared in
Pope John Paul II offered a silent
blessing from his window Easter Sunday.  
By Andrew Medichini, AP