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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Frail Pope blesses Easter crowds
Pope John Paul II
The Pope appeared distressed as he struggled to speak
Pope John Paul II has appeared at his Vatican window to bless crowds gathered in Rome for Easter.

The 84-year-old Roman Catholic leader, who had throat surgery last month, looked frail and in discomfort as he tried to utter a few words.

Ill health has forced him to delegate Easter ceremonies to his cardinals for the first time in his long papacy.

Christians around the world are marking Easter Day, one of the most important events in their religious calendar.

Christians believe Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, which is celebrated later in the year by Orthodox followers.

Calls for peace

The Pope appeared for more than 10 minutes with a microphone by his side at the window of his Vatican apartment to give his Easter blessing.

He seemed in great discomfort, swallowing frequently, and sometimes putting his hands to his head in apparent pain, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Peace for our world consecrated by your blood and drenched in the blood of so many innocent victims: peace for the countries of the Middle East and Africa, where so much blood continues to be shed
Papal Easter message

The Pope struggled to pronounce the words "in the name of the Father", but finally resigned himself to the fact that he was unable to speak to the crowd of anxious pilgrims filling Saint Peter's Square, our correspondent says.

He followed the words of his Easter "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World) message attentively. It was read out for him by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state.

He called for peace in the Middle East and Africa, and in a world "drenched in the blood of so many innocent victims of war".

He called on believers to show solidarity to those dying from poverty and hunger, and he prayed for Aids victims and those whose lives were swept away in the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Many in the crowd cried and others applauded his appearance.

Video link

The Pope had been unable to take part in Easter celebrations except through television.

The Pope did not attend the Easter Sunday Mass which took place earlier in St Peter's Square, celebrated by Cardinal Sodano.

On Saturday, he missed the night Mass in St Peter's Basilica, which was instead celebrated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of the Pope's closest aides.

The Pope was watching on television as his message was read out to the faithful.

It said that, through Christ, what has been destroyed could be rebuilt and that what has grown old could be given new life.

The Pope has been sending a series of messages stressing that - although absent through sickness - he is present in spirit with the faithful.

He still has a tube in his throat to help him breathe.

Sunday's was the sixth appearance the Pope has made since he left hospital on 13 March - four from his window and two via video link.

Watch the Pope give his Easter blessing

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