Pope Likely to Bless Faithful From Hospital

Pope John Paul II (search) is expected to bless the faithful on Sunday from a window of the hospital treating him for a breathing crisis, his spokesman said Friday.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls (search) told reporters outside Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic hospital that the 84-year-old pontiff likely would make another window appearance similar to his surprise showing last weekend. A final decision would be made Saturday, he said.

"The pope will give the blessing with his hands," not with his voice, which is recovering from surgery Feb. 24 to insert a breathing tube into his throat, Navarro-Valls said.

In the hospital, John Paul continues to show progress, praying in a chapel and keeping up with church business, the Vatican (search) said Thursday. Officials said it was possible he might be released in time for Easter celebrations in three weeks. They said the pope is eager to leave but accepts his doctors' advice not to rush his discharge.

Usually, the pope addresses the faithful from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square. Navarro-Valls said it was likely that an archbishop would read out Sunday's traditional prayer and blessing, known as the Angelus, and that the pope would wave his blessing to believers gathered at the hospital.

In line with Vatican efforts to show John Paul is in command despite the hospitalization, Navarro-Valls said the pope has been receiving several top churchmen "with whom he daily follows the activity of the Holy See and the life of the church."

With Vatican officials standing in for the pope, a new image of the papacy has been emerging during the hospitalization. Several top officials have said they see no problem with a pope who can't speak.

Illustrating how the ailing pope is attending to business, the Vatican released a message the pope sent to a Vatican congregation holding its general assembly.

The Vatican has not announced a date for his release. Asked whether the pope might be back at the Vatican in time for Easter, Navarro-Valls said: "It's possible."

He said the Vatican was going ahead with its regular Easter schedule and that if the pope was released before the holiday, his level of participation would still have to be decided.

The pope's overall health and recovery are complicated by Parkinson's disease, which causes gradual loss of muscle control. He also suffers from crippling hip and knee ailments.

John Paul was taken by ambulance to Gemelli with breathing spasms on Feb. 1 and was released on Feb. 10 only to be rushed back again on Feb. 24 for a throat operation that left him with a breathing tube and facing extensive speech and respiratory therapy.