FRAIL POPE HEADS FOR RECOVERY
BY VIVIAN HEWITT IN ROME AND PIERS MCGRANDLE
SURGEONS WHO performed a "textbook appendectomy" on Pope John Paul 11 dismissed reports that the Pontiff had been suffering from a stomach tumour,
The Pope was said to be recovering well from the 40minute routine operation, but remained under observation by neurological experts, concerned that he may be suffering from a condition such as Parkinson's disease. His tremulous appearance at Sunday's beatification ceremony worsened public fears.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Professor Fancesco Crucitti said that the operation revealed no signs of a growth or any other serious illness.
But the Professor's reassuring remarks did nothing to stem the flood of reports and counter-reports circulating about the Pope's health. According to ASCA, a lead ing Catholic news agency in Rome, the Pope had been suffering from a stomach tumour. The agency claimed that the Pope had a new tumour which had formed after an operation in 1992 to remove a growth.
But although the report was described as "wellinformed" by some Vatican circles, leading figure Cardinal Sodano described it as "fantasy". However, media attention continues to focus on speculation that the Pope is suffering from Parkinson's disease, or some other neurological disorder. At a three-hour beatification ceremony on Sunday, the Pope's left hand was trembling uncontrollably. He also coughed several times while reading his homily, and looked extremely tired at times. The image, seen on TV screens across the world, only served to boost the fervour of millions of Catholics and other wellwishers in their prayers for the plainly frail Pope.
Italian newspapers have also complained at the emergence of a vacuum at the heart of the Vatican. One newspaper, La Repubblica, has said that it is disturbing that there was no "deputy Pope" to take Charge of the Vatican if necessary.
Cardinal Sodano is in charge of day-to-day affairs at the Vatican, together with Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, the Treasurer of the Holy See. Any emergency conclave of Cardinals would be chaired by Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, a leading African candidate for the Papacy.
The Pope has been kept under tight security during his stay at Rome's Policlinico Gemelli, his sixth since the start of his papacy in 1978. As he entered the hospital, patients in bathrobes waved from balconies.
After a few remarks with Italian president Luigi Scatfaro,Pope John Paul was escorted to a private suite of
rooms on the 10th floor. 'The papal wing includes a bedroom, workrooms for his aides and a small kitchen.It has its own chapel and a view of the dome of St Basilica.
Two days before going into the hospital, the Pope made some appreciative remarks about the medical profession. Addressing 25,000 followers of the Italian hermit, Padre Pie, he said that it was important to remember the comfort modern medicine has brought to many people throughout the world.
While the normal Catholic priest had a strong vision of the faith and its place in healing, he "did not understand the resources that medical science and modern therapeutic technologies make available today to health care workers".