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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 02:31 GMT
Pope makes video link appearance
Pope John Paul II
Pilgrims were delighted by the Pope's appearance
Frail Pope John Paul II has used a video link to appear to pilgrims at a Good Friday procession in Rome.

The 84-year-old is convalescing after throat surgery and has been absent from Vatican ceremonies for Easter weekend.

But on Friday night, images from the Pope's private chapel were beamed to giant TV screens at the Colosseum, to the delight of thousands.

The vicar of Rome read a message from the Pope, in which he said he was close to those who are tested by suffering.

"I also offer my suffering, so that God's design is completed and his word walks among the people," the message said.

Those taking part in the Way of the Cross procession waved torches and cheered as the pontiff appeared.

He was shown from behind, wearing white robes and watching a live broadcast of the event.

He did not speak, but held up a small wooden cross towards the end of the ceremony.

The Pope gave up carrying the cross several years ago, but until last year he presided over the evening service which follows the procession.

'Physical trials'

The pontiff has made two public appearances since leaving hospital on 13 March following throat surgery.

Recovery from the operation has been slower than expected, and his doctors have advised him not to attend ceremonies for the first time in his 26-year papacy.

It's very obvious that the Pope is carrying a very heavy cross indeed
US Archbishop John Foley

A top cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, told Italian television the Pope, though weakened, remained "lucid".

"And, given the physical trials John Paul II is going through, even this is a gift from God," the cardinal said.

Cardinals are standing in for the pontiff, who is still expected to give his traditional Easter Sunday blessing.

"It's very obvious that the Pope is carrying a very heavy cross indeed, and he is giving a marvellous example of patience in the face of suffering," senior Vatican official Archbishop John Foley told Vatican Radio on Friday.

Millions of Christians across the world observed Good Friday at the start of the Easter weekend when they believe Jesus Christ died and was resurrected.

Orthodox Christians, who follow a different calendar, will celebrate Easter on 1 May.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See moments from the video shown at the Colosseum



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