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Pope Won't Preside Over Holy Week

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Pope John Paul II plans to give his traditional blessings on Easter Sunday, the Vatican said Tuesday, but left it unclear whether he will actually appear in St. Peter's Square.

According to a Vatican program released Tuesday, the pope is not going to preside over any of the Holy Week ceremonies, reports CBS News' Sabina Castelfranco.

The schedule shows top Vatican officials listed as presiding at services generally led by John Paul. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's No. 2 official, will preside on Easter Sunday, March 27.

Following the latest medical bulletin Monday, the Vatican said the pope will probably be discharged from the hospital by March 20, Palm Sunday, but that it was still unknown whether the pontiff can regain enough of his voice to address his faithful or take part in Holy Week ceremonies.

The latest schedule has Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope's vicar for Rome, presiding at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, at Holy Thursday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica; and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's doctrinal chief, at the Easter Vigil.

No one is listed for the Way of the Cross Procession, planned for Good Friday evening at the Colosseum, leaving the possibility that the pope may want to be present.

But Vatican officials stressed it was too early to make any commitments on the pope's participation and the only firm appointment is his Easter Sunday blessing.

The next medical update by the Holy See is due Thursday, with the pontiff expected to spend part of Tuesday as he has passed much of his convalescence at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic — resting in an armchair and doing speech and breathing exercises.

Since John Paul underwent a Feb. 24 tracheotomy — surgery to cut an opening in his windpipe to insert a tube to help breathing — he has uttered no words to the public. Twice during this latest hospitalization he made silent appearances at a window of his 10th-floor hospital apartment.

Even though he presides over an ancient organization with two millennia of history, Pope John Paul II is like anyone who's been away from the office for a while: His e-mail is piling up.

The Vatican says it has logged more than 10,000 e-mails in English alone for the pope while he's in the hospital.

More than 6,000 e-mails in Spanish have streamed into the pope's inbox, along with thousands of others in various languages, the Vatican said.

"As far as the content, the common denominator is not only the good wishes but personal memories and episodes of life recounted by those who have been stirred by the words of the pope and his testimony of faith," Vatican Radio reported this week.

"The closeness expressed to the pope is coming from every part of the world," it said. "The flow of messages doesn't stop."

The Vatican won't say how much — if any — e-mail the 84-year-old pontiff actually reads or responds to, but John Paul seems comfortable with the medium.

More time-honored expressions of affection and support such as letters, telegrams and poems also have poured in for the pope. This week, the Vatican released letters and drawings sent by Italian third-graders, who drew a smiling pope waving a cane and pictures of the pontiff in his hospital bed. Even prisoners have been writing the pope.

"The pope sees some of the messages, but I don't know how many," hospital spokesman Nicola Cerbino said Tuesday. "All the messages that are received by the pope get an official response."

The flood of e-mails underscores how the pope and the Vatican have embraced technology and used it to advance the work of the church.

One reason John Paul may be getting so much e-mail is that it's so easy to send him one.

The Vatican has retooled its Web site to let the faithful click on an icon depicting the pope and the words, "Best Wishes for the Holy Father."

An e-mail composer then pops up with his address, john-paul-iivatican.va, in the send field.

Does the pope get spam? The Vatican won't say.