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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February 2005, 18:16 GMT
Pope's well-wishers excel

By Tamsin Smith
BBC News, Rome

Flowers
Special delivery: All bouquets have to be checked by security
"Less of a bouquet, more of a forest."

That is how one hospital doctor described one enormous floral offering that towers outside the Pope's 10th-floor suite at the Gemelli hospital.

The sender was the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Flowers have been pouring in from dignitaries and well-wishers around the world. Many arrangements are in white and gold, the Vatican colours.

Others are red to symbolise the Pope's native Poland.

Delivery men tried to manoeuvre huge bouquets through the hospital doors.

Each offering though has to be processed first by the Vatican security officials in a special reception room before it reaches the Pope's bedside.

But with so many flowers arriving, hundreds of bouquets have been sent to decorate the chapel and the patients' wards.

Smile medicine

Letters and e-mails have also been flooding in from all over the world. Even Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot the Pope in a botched assassination attempt in 1981, sent a message from his prison cell in Turkey.

"I send you my best wishes for a speedy recovery," it read.

The hospital entrance surrounded by cameras has become a stage entrance for those wanting to send a message to the Pope in an eye-catching way.

It's that Polish blood you see, makes him strong enough to fight anything
Ermino Taricone

On Friday, two people turned up as clowns.

"We're from the Medical Association of Smiles," they said. "We want to let the Pope know we care."

The sparse medical bulletins delivered in the foyer on the Pope's health have become a hospital attraction.

As a press officer read aloud the latest Vatican statement, a crowd of patients and doctors gathered behind the journalists.

Some came to eat their sandwiches, which invariably lasted longer than the time it took to read aloud the meagre crumbs of information in the bulletin.

"We normally have live bands performing in this foyer at lunchtime for the patients," said one doctor. "But it seems that this is a big attraction, too."

Even local residents are making their way here for the spectacle.

"I'm going to come along to every bulletin," says Ermino Taricone, 80, who lives nearby and is clutching a copy of the latest report on the Pope's health.

"I'm willing him to pull through. He's a tough man... it's that Polish blood you see, makes him strong enough to fight anything."


SEE ALSO
Frail Pope's health 'improving'
04 Feb 05 |  Europe
World's Catholics pray for Pope
02 Feb 05 |  Europe
Ailing Pope to stay in hospital
02 Feb 05 |  Europe
Pope's troubled health history
02 Feb 05 |  Europe
A life in pictures
15 Oct 03 |  In Depth

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