The Pope is back in the Vatican after 18 days in hospital. Crowds lined the streets to catch a glimpse of John Paul II as he was driven home from Rome’s Gemelli hospital on Sunday evening, surrounded by bodyguards. Earlier he spoke directly to the Roman Catholic faithful for the first time since his tracheotomy on February 24, appearing briefly at the window of his suite.
There had been much speculation about the effect the operation would have had on his voice but it was clearly recognisable.
The 84-year-old Pontiff is undergoing breathing and speech rehabilitation and is thought to still have a tube in his throat to help air get to his lungs. The top of his white cassock was unbuttoned, apparently to avoid pressure on the tube. For the first time in his 26-year papacy he has asked senior cardinals to preside at nearly all of the Holy Week services which lead up to Easter Sunday on March 27.