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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 17:52 GMT
Pope returns to Vatican after op
Pope arrives at the Vatican
The Pope will finish his convalescence at the Vatican
Pope John Paul II has left his hospital in Rome, where he spent more than two weeks recovering from throat surgery, and has returned to the Vatican.

Looking alert but grim-faced, he waved to crowds lining the road for the trip of a few kilometres (miles) from the Gemelli clinic to the Holy See.

He was travelling in a grey Mercedes minivan with tinted windows rather than his more usual popemobile.

Earlier, he addressed pilgrims for the first time since his tracheotomy.

The pontiff, 84 and with Parkinson's Disease, is expected to appear at Easter Week events later this month but a papal spokesman stressed he would be "continuing his convalescence" at the Vatican.

It is thought the tube that was put in his throat is still in place.

Polish pilgrims

When he spoke from the window of his 10th-floor room, the Pope sounded hoarse.

He read only a few words from a sheet of paper but his appearance delighted those who had gathered below.

1 Feb: Taken to hospital with "breathing difficulties brought on by flu"
6 Feb: Appears at hospital window and reads part of Angelus blessing in weak voice
9 Feb: Misses Ash Wednesday services at the Vatican
10 Feb: Returns to Vatican in motorcade, waving
13 Feb: Appears for Sunday blessing at Vatican
22 Feb: Launches book in which he compares abortion to the Holocaust
24 Feb: Returns to hospital following a relapse; has tracheotomy
27 Feb: Makes surprise appearance at hospital window
6 Mar: Makes silent blessing from hospital window
13 Mar: Says a few words in public before leaving for the Vatican

In Polish, he thanked a group of pilgrims who had travelled from his birthplace in the southern Polish town of Wadowice to be among the crowd.

And in Italian, he said: "Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your visit. To everyone, have a good Sunday and a good week."

He waved and gave the sign of the cross to those who had gathered.

As with previous Sundays during his hospital stay, the traditional Angelus prayer and blessing was read out by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri of Argentina.

In a separate message read on his behalf, the Pope thanked the international media for bringing him close to the Catholic faithful around the world through radio, television and the internet.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says while the Pope will be back at the Vatican in time for Easter services, which begin in a week's time, his participation will be limited.

The one engagement he has insisted on fulfilling in person is to deliver his traditional blessing to the city of Rome and to the world on Easter Sunday.

See the Pope leave hospital

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