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Pope's health improving, but pontiff will remain hospitalized

ROME—Pope John Paul II probably will remain hospitalized at least until Monday, but he appears to be on the mend, Vatican and medical officials said Thursday.

The 84-year-old pontiff is being treated at the Gemelli hospital in Rome, not far from his residence in Vatican City and the same hospital where he's celebrated mass while recovering from other illnesses.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said the pope's hospitalization late Tuesday was more precautionary than necessary. Officials moved him after he had trouble breathing because of his medical history, which includes being shot in the stomach in an assassination attempt in 1981 and surgery to have a tumor removed in 1992, in addition to Parkinson's disease.

"The Holy Father is like anyone else," he said. "He follows the advice of his doctors."

Statements that the pope appeared to be recovering brought noticeable relief here, where his hospitalization has dominated newspapers and radio and television news broadcasts and brought out thousands to St. Peter's Square and neighborhood churches.

"He's a good pope, a people's pope," said Rome resident Luigi Pastore, who was standing outside St. Peter's Square. "We get nervous when we hear he's sick. He's been there for 26 years, the pope many of us grew up with."

Dozens of television cameras remain perched on a hill near the hospital and directed at the 10th floor, where the pope is being accommodated in a suite of rooms always ready for his arrival.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said Thursday that the Pope had suffered from an acute laryngeal tracheitis and had throat spasms, which prompted the hospital stay.

"The condition continues to improve," he said in a prepared statement. "The Holy Father has passed one night of calm rest. We will have more to say Friday."

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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