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Pope returns from hospital

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II returned to the Vatican on March 13 after spending 18 days in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where he underwent a tracheotomy and therapy to help him breathe and speak with a tube still in his throat.

Sitting in the front seat of a mini van, the Pope arrived at St Peter’s Square at about 6.30pm local time, waving to the estimated 2000 people and television cameras that had gathered to welcome him home.

Italian schoolchildren dressed in yellow jackets and about 30 Missionaries of Charity dressed in their blue and white saris were among those who shouted, waved and prayed as the Pope’s car passed slowly and entered St Peter’s Square.

The Pope’s arrival at the Vatican came about six hours after he spoke live publicly for the first time since being hospitalised on February 24 and undergoing surgery to insert a tube in his trachea to ease breathing difficulties.

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope would “continue his convalescence” at the Vatican, leaving the impression that the Pope would have a drastically reduced public schedule for several weeks.

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