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Pope Recovers, Returns To Rome

2003/9/11 Pope John Paul II arriving in Bratislava, SLovakia, video still
AP
Pope John Paul II resumed his regular schedule Thursday, indicating he has recovered from the intestinal illness that forced him to skip an appearance a day earlier.

The pope was also returning to Vatican City, a day earlier than planned, after more than two months in Castel Gandolfo, his vacation home in the Alban Hills south of Rome. No explanation was given for moving up the return.

Officials said no announcement on the pope's condition was planned, calling this an indication that John Paul was clearly better.

His schedule Thursday included meetings with visiting bishops from the Philippines, the mayor and other officials of Castel Gandolfo for a customary farewell and with the security forces who protected him at the lakeside palace.

His rare absence at Wednesday's weekly general audience raised fresh concerns about the pope's health just weeks before he presides at ceremonies marking his 25th anniversary as pope.

The 83-year-old pontiff addressed the crowd at the Vatican in an audio message, although he spoke with a weak voice and slurred his words — symptoms of the Parkinson's disease he has had for years.

The Vatican said the intestinal ailment was "mild," and papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said John Paul would keep to his upcoming schedule.

Late Wednesday, the pope received Vatican employees who work at the Castel Gandolfo residence in a private audience, the participants said. They left the residence saying the pope had held up well during the meeting, which lasted over an hour.

The illness comes at a busy time for the John Paul. In October, he is scheduled to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, make a pilgrimage to a shrine in southern Italy, celebrate his 25th anniversary Mass and to preside at the beatification of Mother Teresa.
By Victor L. Simpson