Pope to spend few more days in hospital

Pope John Paul II has been taken to hospital because of breathing complications, according to the Vatican.

Pope John Paul II will spend a few more days in hospital but his condition has stabilized after an overnight stay for respiratory problems, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The 84-year-old pontiff was rushed to Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic Tuesday when his three-day-old flu worsened.

"Today there is no reason to be alarmed," papal spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters outside the hospital Wednesday, adding that the hospital admission was mainly precautionary.

He said tests showed the Pope's heart and breathing were within "normal limits."

The Pope never lost consciousness but rested for several hours during the night and required respiratory assistance therapy, said Navarro-Valls. The Pope had some breakfast Wednesday morning and was celebrating mass from his bed.

Vatican officials had said it was decided to "urgently hospitalize" the pope as a precaution when his three-day old flu became complicated with "acute breathing problems."

Navarro-Valls, who also has a medical degree, said the Pope was suffering from acute laryngeal tracheitis – inflammation of the trachea, a breathing passage – with episodes of larynx-spasm.

A sign the Pope was not well came on Sunday, when he kept clearing his throat during an appearance at his studio window, which was opened so he could release a pair of doves symbolizing peace into St. Peter's Square.

Pope John Paul II has been in poor health for many years, but he has seldom let that get in the way of his official duties. He regularly says mass and greets pilgrims who travel to the Vatican.

Slightly more than two years ago, while celebrating his 25th anniversary as head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in front of St. Peter's Basilica that God wanted him to continue as leader in spite of his poor health.

"He, while knowing my human fragility, encourages me to respond with faith ... and He invites me to assume the responsibilities that He himself has entrusted to me," the Pope said at the time.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, was elected pontiff by his fellow cardinals in 1978.

The Pope has Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological disorder. Observers had long suspected it as the cause of his trembling hands and slurred speech.

He had a tumour removed from his intestines in 1992, has knee and hip problems and also suffers from the effects of being shot in an assassination attempt in 1981.