Signs of the Times

Pope Hospitalized With Breathing Problems

After Pope John Paul II was rushed to a hospital in Rome on the evening of Feb. 1 for treatment to help him overcome breathing problems, his condition stabilized and he was able to concelebrate Mass from his hospital bed, the Vatican spokesman reported. The Holy Father was able to rest for several hours during the night; he was able to sleep, Joaquín Navarro-Valls told reporters about 12 hours after the pope was taken by ambulance to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. A guard at the hospital, who said he had seen the pope arrive in the ambulance, told Catholic News Service on Feb. 2, He was not doing well. He looked awful. Let us hope for the best.

A Vatican official close to the pope told Catholic News Service on Feb. 2 that everything was calm; there was no panic in the Vatican when the pope experienced difficulty breathing. They took him to the hospital just to make him more comfortable, the official said. He needs to rest for a few days in order to recover. The official said no one close to the pope thought the illness would be fatal.


Navarro-Valls told reporters the doctors had confirmed the diagnosis of acute laryngeal tracheitis with episodes of laryngeal spasms. He said the pope’s cardiorespiratory and metabolic functions are within normal limits, although the pope did have a slight fever in the morning.

Beyond saying that the pope received respiratory assistance upon arriving at the hospital at 10:50 p.m., Navarro-Valls would not specify the treatment the pope was receiving. When asked if a tracheotomy had been performedcutting a hole in the trachea to assist breathingNavarro-Valls said, absolutely not.

The spokesman said the pope did not lose consciousness when he was having trouble breathing on Feb. 1, but obviously the episode was sufficiently serious that his personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, decided hospitalization was advisable. Navarro-Valls confirmed that after checking the pope into the hospital and assisting with his care, Buzzonetti left Gemelli at about 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 2 and returned to the pope’s side at 6 a.m.

The spokesman said that the pope was doing well enough at 10:15 a.m. to begin concelebrating Mass with his private secretaries, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz and Msgr. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki. The pope had not eaten breakfast, Navarro-Valls said, but maybe he will eat after Mass.

Earlier, Navarro-Valls had said that the pope began showing symptoms of the flu on Jan. 30 and cancelled his appointments for Jan. 31. Then, on Feb. 1 Navarro-Valls said the flu was continuing its natural progression, leading the pope to cancel his appointments for Feb. 1-2 as well. Meeting reporters on Feb. 2, the spokesman gave no indication of how long the pope was expected to remain in the hospital.

In his final public appearance before he was hospitalized, the pope appeared in his apartment window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to lead the Sunday noon Angelus on Jan. 30. His voice was hoarse, but this did not stop him from greeting visitors in the square below.

News Update: Pope John Paul IIs condition continued improving on his third full day in the hospital, and doctors said he was "eating regularly." Examinations carried out in Romes Gemelli Hospital Feb. 1-4 "confirm the stabilization of his clinical situation," said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the popes spokesman.

Seventh Papal Hospitalization

Since his election in 1978, Pope John Paul has been a patient on the 10th floor of Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on six previous occasions:

May 13, 1981, after a would-be assassin shot him;

Again in 1981, a few weeks after he was released, because of a blood infection;

In 1992 for removal of a benign intestinal tumor and gall bladder;

In 1993 for a separated and fractured shoulder;

In 1994 for a broken thighbone;

In 1996 for removal of his appendix.

Vatican Cardinal Wants Uniform Approach to Gays

A Vatican official has recommended that U.S. bishops adopt a uniform pastoral approach for ministering to members of Rainbow Sash, a gay rights group, said Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Flynn allows members wearing the sash to receive Communion, while some other bishops do not. In a statement on Jan. 26, Archbishop Flynn said he met in mid-December with Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, to discuss the difficult pastoral situation of Rainbow Sash.

Cardinal Arinze did not in fact suggest an immediate change to the policy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Flynn said in his statement. However, he did clearly indicate that this situation merits further study and that ideally all of the bishops who have pastoral care for the members of this movement should seek to adopt a uniform approach, the statement said. This recommendation needs to be reviewed by those bishops involved in the near future.

Some bishops, like Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I., of Chicago, have denied the Eucharist to Rainbow Sash members on the grounds that they were using the Eucharist to manifest opposition to church teaching. On previous occasions, Archbishop Flynn has said that sash-wearers would not be denied Communion, because members of the movement had assured him in writing that their presence at Mass was not in protest of church teachings.

News Update: The Vaticans top liturgy official said Rainbow Sash wearers disqualify themselves from receiving Holy Communion because they are demonstrating their opposition to church teaching on homosexuality. Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, made the comment in a written response to Catholic News Service in early February.

Denver Archdiocese at Odds With Lawyers Guild

The Archdiocese of Denver will no longer give the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Colorado its support, which in the past included providing a venue and a celebrant for its annual Red Mass, after the group refused to give Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., veto power in the selection of those to be honored by the attorneys, said the guild’s president, Laura Tighe of Denver. The disagreement with the archbishop developed after guild members chose then-state Attorney General Ken Salazar as the recipient of their St. Thomas More award in November 2003. Salazar, a Catholic, is a Democrat who supports keeping abortion legal. Last year he was elected as Colorado’s junior member of the U.S. Senate.

Sergio Gutierrez, spokesman for Archbishop Chaput, said the archbishop’s concerns about vetting the guild’s honorees as well as his request that the group take up public advocacy were reasonable expectations of an organization that calls itself Catholic.

Bishop Reluctantly’ Lets College Host Clinton

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, gave a speech at Jesuit-run Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., on Jan. 31, despite protests by abortion opponents and the withdrawal of sponsorship of the event by agencies of the Diocese of Buffalo. Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo cited the U.S. bishops’ statement Catholics in Political Life in an announcement on Jan. 28 that he would reluctantly allow the event to take place, despite Clinton’s strong support for keeping abortion legal. John J. Hurley, the college’s vice president for college relations, told Catholic News Service that the college will not give...awards or honors to public officials who espouse positions in conflict with fundamental church teachings, but they can be invited to speak on campus so long as they do not use that as a forum to disagree with church teachings. Clinton’s talk was on the government’s role in health care.

Corporate Responsibility Movement Targets Games

The sale of violent video games to children is receiving special attention this year from church agencies affiliated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York. The center has about 275 members, who together have more than $100 billion invested in pension, endowment and reserve funds. With a staff of a dozen and an annual budget of $1.3 million, the center coordinates most of its members’ activity in the corporate responsibility field. Members of the center have filed resolutions with five major retailersBest Buy, Circuit City, Target, Toys R’ Us and Wal-Mart. In the resolution, each of the five retailers has been asked simply to report on the implementation of the company’s policies regarding sale of mature-rated video games.

News Briefs

According to the 2005 Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican yearbook, the world’s Catholic population grew from 1.07 billion in 2002 to 1.08 billion in 2003, the last year for which complete figures are available. The total number of priests grew from 405,058 in 2002 to 405,450 in 2003. There were 707 more diocesan priests, while there were 315 fewer religious order priests.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy said the cancellation of debt for certain poor countries should be a priority at the meeting of the Group of Seven finance ministers in London on Feb. 4-5.

A candidate’s ability to live a life of celibacy in the priesthood must be carefully verified before he is admitted to a seminary, Pope John Paul II said in a message to members of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.

Some evangelical movements endorse uncritical support for what they believe to be in the best interests of Israel, hindering promotion of solutions favored by Catholics based on the twin pillars of Israeli security and a Palestinian homeland, said Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Jan. 10.

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