History is being made at the Vatican.
For the first time in his papacy, John Paul II will spend a Sunday without blessing the faithful.
Instead, the ailing 84-year-old will follow the weekly Angelus prayer service from his hospital room.
Visitors to Rome acknowledged the significance of his absence.
“It is sad,” said one woman from the Irish Republic, who took it as a sign that: “he is coming to the end of his days.”
“Well my guess is there will be people here joining him in prayer, knowing that he is praying with them, especially at that particular time,” said a man.
An aide will stand in for the pope at St Peter’s Square. It is not clear whether a video link will be set up so the crowd can at least see the leader of the Roman Catholic Church who is still unable to speak, following throat surgery. Meanwhile, a special prayer service dedicated to the pope took place in the chapel of Rome’s Gemelli Hospital where he is being treated.