Fresh fears over Pope's health

2005-03-22 11:54

Rome - Pope John Paul II has had fresh breathing problems and his health is worsening, Italy's newspapers reported on Tuesday, overshadowing the Roman Catholic Church's preparations for Easter Holy Week.

Several newspapers reported fresh fears over the health of the 84-year-old pontiff after rumours that he was being taken to hospital for the third time in seven weeks swept through the international media in Rome late on Monday.

However, the Vatican insisted that there were no new developments in his condition.

"The pope's overall condition is more serious today than it was when he was in the Gemelli," conservative Rome daily Il Messaggero reported, citing sources at the Holy See.

"Pray for the pope, because he's getting worse," Il Messaggero quoted the pope's private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, as telling another Polish priest.

John Paul II was hospitalised twice last month with acute breathing problems linked to his Parkinson's disease and the flu.

He had throat surgery on February 24 when doctors inserted a tube into his neck to ease his breathing. He has been back at the Vatican since March 13.

The left-wing daily La Repubblica said the pope had a "day of difficulty" on Monday. He had difficulty breathing and his medical team at the Vatican had to intervene to clear the tube into his neck, it said.

Unidentified doctors in John Paul II's medical team were quoted by Corriere della Sera as saying there was no worsening of the pope's condition, but that his convalescence was still far from over.

The pontiff, head of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, appeared tired when he appeared briefly at his apartment window to bless tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday.

Instead of reassuring the faithful, however, the appearance only served to underline concerns about his health. - AFP