by John Carey and Desmond O'Grady
A WIDE range of alternative arrangements for the Pope's visit to Britain next year will be drawn up at a meeting at the end of August.
The need to guard against putting "undue strain" on the Pope was underlined again in a statement this week by Cardinal Basil Hume. The statement was clearly prompted by the Pope's unexpected decision to stay in hospital until after his second operation. But it makes it clear that it is assumed the visit will go ahead in some form, however curtailed it may have to be.
Cardinal Hume said: "I am sure there will be universal concern at the continuing ill health of the Pope. He is making progress in his return to health and we should redouble our prayers that he will make a complete recovery.
"At present, we still look forward to his coming to Britain next May. In the light of all that has happened, it seems obvious that we will have to prepare a wide range of options for his visit.
"We must never put undue strain on the Holy Father, nor overtax his strength. It may then be necessary to curtail the long and tiring public ceremonies of previous visits.
"After the holidays, we will have to look at the proposed programme again and arrive at definite decisions."
Mgr Ralph Brown, the coordinator for the visit to England and Wales, is due to meet the regional coordinators on August 28. Firm plans are likely to be drawn up then, although they may not be made public unitil it is clear that the original proposals will definitely have to be changed. The Pope is scheduled to arrive in England on May 28 next year.
The Pope is now expected to remain in hospital until midAugust. when doctors hope to perform the second intestinal operation. Presumably after that he will convalesce at the Papal Villa in Castelgandolfo and not return to the Vatican before late September.
Last week's medical bulletin. which recapitulated the Pope's state of health from the operation of May 13, indicated that the virus infection was a very serious threat. It said the therapy had avoided yet another operation.
Nevertheless, the bulletin said that the virus was now under control and, at the moment, after the conflicting reports on the Pope's health in past weeks, it is presumed he will now make steady progress.
Pope John Paul's voice in his midday address on Sunday was still not as strong as it used to be. He appealed for prayers for all places in which destruction, and suffering disturb harmonious relations between peoples, particularly for "beloved Lebanon so harshly tormented".
Poles were prominent among the crowd in St Peter's Square which listened to the message which the Pope had recorded on Saturday. The Pope thanked them for their prayers, saying "1 have so much need for your prayers. In my solitude I remember you."
On Sunday morning Poles packed St Stanislaw church just near the Italian communist party headquarters, for a mass celebrated by the new Polish Primate Archbishop Jozef Glemp. Archbishop Glemp asked for prayers so that he could "respond to God's plans for the Polish nation". The Archbishop is have an audience with the Pope.
Since the beginning of the year, some hundreds of Polish visitors to Rome have decided not to return home. Poles are now the biggest contingent in the Latina refugee camp near Rome.