Pope John Paul II made a short appearance at the window of his Rome hospital today to bless pilgrims. Sitting in a wheelchair, he made the sign of the cross and then waved at well-wishers gathered outside the Gemelli Hospital. In a message read to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, he said: "the current climate of penitence of Lent also helps us to better understand the suffering which one way or other concerns us all." "Only looking to Christ and following him with patient trust shall we understand how all human form of pain includes a divine promise of salvation and happiness." "I want this message of comfort and hope to reach everyone, especially those who are going through difficult times, who are suffering in body and soul." He said: "Please to continue to accompany me... with your prayers." Pope John Paul has been in hospital since Thursday when he had a trachaeotomy operation to relieve breathing difficulties. This was the first time he has missed the Amgelus blessing in St Peter's Square. He has always made a great effort to keep his appointment with pilgrims appearing before them to give a blessing even when he has not been able to give his full address. He managed to do so in 1981, after the assassination attempt, and in 1992, after an operation to remove an intestinal tumour. Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "The courage and determination of Pope John Paul II is truly remarkable. His desire to give encouragement to us all has always been at the heart of his ministry." The Archbishop of Birmingham added: "The Pope s blessing, given in such circumstances, is deeply appreciated by Catholics throughout the world and we willingly give him our love and prayers." Source: ABC/Archdiocese of Birmimngham
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