Pope hospitalised again after flu relapse

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The Independent Online

Pope John Paul II was hospitalised today after suffering a relapse of the flu, the Vatican announced, a day after the pontiff made his longest public appearance since being discharged from the clinic two weeks ago.

Pope John Paul II was hospitalised today after suffering a relapse of the flu, the Vatican announced, a day after the pontiff made his longest public appearance since being discharged from the clinic two weeks ago.

The 84-year-old pontiff was taken to Gemelli Polyclinic hospital after the return of flu symptoms yesterday afternoon. He was hospitalised for the "necessary specialised assistance and further tests," papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

The pope failed to show up this morning for a scheduled meeting on new candidates for sainthood. No explanation was given for his absence and the ceremony went ahead, presided over by the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The pope had been convalescing after his hospitalisation but had appeared to be making a strong rebound, appearing twice at the window of his studio at the Vatican to greet pilgrims.

Yesterday, the pope wheezed and looked gaunt but managed to make his longest public appearance since leaving the hospital.

The Vatican originally had planned for the frail pontiff to address pilgrims in St. Peter's Square from his apartment window, but decided instead on a video hookup because of the rain and winds.

The change was in line with the caution the Vatican has been showing since John Paul was rushed to the hospital on 1 February with breathing difficulties following a bout of flu.

In all, the pope followed the audience for 30 minutes - the longest time he has appeared in public since returning to the Vatican on 11 February. Fully alert, he waved and gave his blessing at the end.

When John Paul was discharged from the hospital, the Vatican made clear he would decide on his schedule in consultation with his doctors. He has Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments.

Because of his ailments, there has long been speculation that John Paul might consider resigning. That debate was fueled during his hospitalisation when Cardinal Sodano declined to rule out that possibility, saying it was up to the pope's "conscience."

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