A turn for the worse?
The Holy Father is undergoing a tracheotomy:
Pope John Paul II, who appeared to have rebounded from the flu, suffered another breathing crisis and was rushed back to the hospital Thursday. Italian news agencies reported he was to undergo a tracheotomy, a procedure in which doctors puncture a hole in the throat and insert a breathing tube.
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A tracheotomy would have serious consequences for the pope's abilities to carry out his duties. The operation would prevent him from speaking and probably require a long hospital stay. Anesthesia is also risky for a person of the pope's age and disabilities.
Outside medical experts said John Paul may have pneumonia. The Vatican declined to respond to such speculation, saying only that the pope suffered from a "syndrome of influenza" and that a new medical bulletin would be issued Friday.
Adam Cardinal Maida issued a prayer earlier this morning:
Father of all life, we ask your special blessing and protection for our Holy Father on earth. According to your will, restore him to the service of your church and keep us all in your peace.
[Update: The Vatican confirms a tracheotomy was performed.]