Pope beats flu to greet the faithful

Click to follow
The Independent Online

of Reuters

Rome - A tired-looking Pope John Paul gave his holiday greetings to the world yesterday after his Christmas Day celebrations were disrupted by a bout of influenza.

"Thank you for coming here today and yesterday, thank you so much," the Pope said, speaking from the window of his private apartments overlooking St Peter's Square. "I wish you, in this Christmas season, a special blessing of the Lord." A Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the Pope, 75, was feeling better, although he still had a slight fever. "Absolutely nothing has changed on his end-of-year programme," Mr Navarro-Valls said, adding that the Pope's doctor had ordered him to rest for a few days.

Yesterday the Pope appeared at the window to deliver an angelus prayer and blessing. He looked tired as he read slowly;his voice wavered and he stumbled over the words at one point. At the end, he resumed his greetings cut short on Monday when he stopped his Urbi et Orbi message to Rome and the world after feeling sick.

On Monday the Pope had said "Happy Christmas" in only Italian, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Polish, while he had been scheduled to give the greeting in 54 languages. He also missed Christmas Day Mass in St Peter's after his doctors ordered rest for fever and influenza. It was the first time since he became Pope in 1978 that he had missed the Christmas Mass.