ROME – Pope John Paul II (search) made a surprise appearance at a hospital window Wednesday, giving the Roman Catholic faithful their third glimpse of him since he was rushed back to the clinic for throat surgery nearly two weeks ago.
The 84-year-old pontiff's brief appearance came shortly before noon on a day when he traditionally holds his weekly public audience at the Vatican — an event that often draws thousands of pilgrims.
John Paul's left hand trembled as he clasped his hands together, but he waved and made the sign of the cross to the crowd below with a steady right hand. The pope suffers from Parkinson's disease (search), which causes a gradual loss of muscle control.
Several hundred people, including school children who had come to sing beneath John Paul's 10th-floor suite at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic (search) hospital, cheered as his hand came into view, weeping and shouting: "The pope! The pope!" and "He is blessing us!"
The pope wore purple vestments and sat behind a window that remained closed to keep out Rome's unseasonably chilly weather.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to see the pope," said Eva Polyaka, a 15-year-old student from Poland. "Today, my dream came true."
"We came for his blessing and we got it," said Darlene Marquez of New Mexico, dressed in a wedding gown with her newlywed husband, Christopher Marquez.
John Paul has spent nearly two weeks at Gemelli, where he is resting and doing speech and breathing exercises following Feb. 24 surgery to insert a tube in his windpipe and ease his latest health crisis.
The ailing pope skipped last week's public audience, and papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters at the hospital earlier Wednesday that there were no plans for the pontiff to make an appearance.
Pilgrims who booked package tours to Rome months in advance to see the pope's audience were expected to converge on the hospital.
A group of Jewish rabbis from the World Union of Progressive Judaism (search) came to the hospital on Wednesday "to pray for the pope and give him comfort," said Rabbi Mark Weiner, an American who lives in London.
"It is our hope that through his suffering, all will see the value of life," said Rabbi Stanley Davids of Jerusalem. "We wanted to share in this to bring him comfort because the church and in particular this pope has so extraordinarily reached out to the Jewish people."
The Vatican, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the pope appointed two bishops in Brazil and released his message for the new ambassador from Georgia, Princess Khetevane Bagration de Moukhrani, who presented her credentials to Cardinal Angelo Sodano (search).
"I am very sorry that it's not possible because of my convalescence to receive you personally," the pope's message said. It mentioned his 1999 visit to the country and spoke of Georgia's "rich Christian patrimony."
Officials said the pope will probably be discharged from the hospital by March 20, Palm Sunday, but that it was still unknown whether he could regain enough of his voice to address the faithful.