| A combination of four pictures shows Pope John Paul at the window of his room at Rome's Gemelli hospital. (Reuters)
Vatican City, Feb. 27 (Reuters): A weak Pope John Paul made a surprise appearance at his hospital window today, reassuring Catholics around the world as an aide miles away at the Vatican presided for the first time at his weekly blessing.
Looking stiff and awkward, the 84-year-old Pope waved twice from the 10th floor window of the Gemelli hospital before aides wheeled his chair away. He appeared for about two minutes with the windows closed and made the sign of the cross towards a small group of people below, some of whom broke into tears when they saw him.
The Angelus prayer usually takes place wherever the Pope is at noon on Sunday. For John Paul to be elsewhere was a first in a 26-year-old papacy. Still, the sight of the Pope, weak as he was, comforted the faithful. It was the first time he was seen in public since he was rushed to hospital on Thursday with acute breathing problems.
'I saw his hand raised. I'm telling you, I had faith. I'd been praying he'd come. The world still needs this Pope. I hope we'll see much more of him in the future,' said Laura Tosti, an Italian.
Minutes before the Pope appeared at the window, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri read his address for him in St Peter's Square and delivered a blessing 'in the name of the Holy Father'. The Pope did not appear until Sandri had finished ' a decision clearly aimed at keeping the two events distinct.
In the message read by Sandri, the Vatican's deputy secretary of state, Pope thanked the world for its concern over his health and asked the faithful to pray for him.
In Poland, the Pope's 82-year-old former roommate prayed for the swift recovery of his ailing friend and countryman today, joining millions of Roman Catholic Poles in wishing their iconic leader well. 'When I pray for him, I think not only of the Pope, not only of the head of the church, but also of my friend, of Karol, of the man,' the Pope's roommate from training seminary, Mieczyslaw Malinski, said in Krakow.
Oscars on toes
The Oscars are concerned about the Pope. Academy awards producer Gil Cates said in Los Angeles that his condition is being monitored.
Cates and the awards show's director, Louis J. Horvitz, 'have a lot of plans in place' in case the Pope should die before the Oscar telecast.
'If, God forbid, that would happen, obviously, we've discussed what we would do,' Cates said on the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre.
'It's really not appropriate to talk about it now because we all hope it won't happen.'