Feeding Tube For Pope

The Vatican is announcing for the first time that Pope John Paul II now has a feeding tube. The leader of the world's Roman Catholics is receiving nutrition through his nose because he has been having problems swallowing.

A Vatican spokesman said Wednesday that the pope is still seeing a "slow and progressive" recovery from having a breathing tube inserted last month in a hospital. He appeared at his window overlooking St. Peter's Square today, and tried to speak but his words were unclear. ^

Pope John Paul II might return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted, an Italian news agency reported Tuesday. It stressed that no decision has been made.

The APcom news agency, citing an unidentified source, said the pope might have to have the tube inserted to improve his nutrition since he is having difficulty swallowing with the breathing tube that was inserted Feb. 24.

APcom said the idea of inserting a feeding tube was a hypothesis that was being considered. The procedure involves surgically inserting a narrow tube through the abdomen and into the stomach to allow for artificial feeding.

CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey has reported that the fact that the pope has appeared in public and recently stayed in view for more than 12 minutes can be taken as a sign that his health is manageable. And Italian newspapers have reported that the pope has spoken in private.

But, the question remains whether or not he will ever be able to do so in public again.

Earlier Tuesday, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the pope's doctors were considering a new hospitalization next week both to perform tests on the breathing tube and to adjust his diet because of problems swallowing.

Another newspaper, La Repubblica, quoted the pope's Vatican physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, as saying doctors are "reasonably calm" about the frail pope's condition.

The 84-year-old pontiff, who was unable to preside at Holy Week events, skipped another tradition Monday — a post-Easter blessing from his window — ending the Easter holiday as silently as he began it.

A few hundred people had gathered in St. Peter's Square in hopes that John Paul would appear as he has on each Easter Monday of his 26-year pontificate, and Vatican TV cameras zoomed in on his third-floor window around noon.

But the curtains remained closed as the pope continued recovering from throat surgery.

"Despite the regret, we're happy because it's good that he continues his convalescence without strain," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of programming at Radio Vatican.

John Paul's appearance on Easter Sunday — when he tried but failed to speak — was still on the minds of many at the Vatican, a dramatic end to a Holy Week in which the pope's suffering was clearly evident.

John Paul had come to his studio window at the end of Easter Mass to bless the tens of thousands of people in the square below. Aides readied a microphone, and he tapped it as if preparing to speak. But after uttering a few unintelligible sounds, he made the sign of the cross with his hand and the microphone was taken away.

Vatican Radio said Monday it would be difficult to ever forget the pope's pained "Urbi et Orbi" blessing and that it would "remain in the history of the church and humanity."

"This silence — full of emotion and desire to speak beyond the physical ability to communicate — spoke to us perhaps as never before the universal language of love," Lombardi said. "For us it was enough. We understood what the pope wanted to say, and how much he wanted to bless us."

John Paul last spoke to the public on March 13, shortly before he was discharged from the hospital for a second time in a month. In addition to the breathing tube, John Paul suffers from Parkinson's disease, which makes it difficult for him to talk.