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Pope breathing on his own

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Pope John Paul II rests in hospital following surgery.

The pontiff is taken to a Rome hospital after a relapse.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the tracheotomy procedure.

The 84-year-old pope suffers from a number of chronic ailments.

• Papal resignations rare
• Pope holds virtual audience
John Paul II
Catholic Church

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II is breathing on his own without the help of a respirator, and doctors have advised him not to speak for a few days, his spokesman has said.

The 84-year-old pontiff was resting in a Rome hospital after doctors performed a successful operation to help the ailing pontiff breathe.

"The situation is normal after surgery," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters. "He's breathing on his own and cardiovascular conditions remain good."

Italian news agencies had reported that John Paul was placed on a respirator after the surgery, but Navarro-Valls said the pope "had no need of assisted breathing."

"Assisted means mechanical, which wasn't used yesterday, nor last night, nor this morning. There was no need," he said.

Ansa also reported that doctors were giving the pope strong antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

Catholics and other well-wishers around the world lit candles and prayed for the pontiff after he underwent a tracheotomy Thursday at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital to relieve respiratory problems caused by a relapse of the flu.

Doctors said the pope had a "restful" night despite only getting three or four hours of sleep, Navarro-Valls said, adding, "Probably he was relieved he could breathe again."

Navarro-Valls said the tracheotomy was elective and not emergency surgery.

"It was a question of assuring adequate breathing of the patient," he said.

Doctors have advised the pope not to speak for a few days to allow his larynx to heal, the spokesman said.

The pope had a Friday breakfast of yogurt, 10 small biscuits and coffee with milk, Navarro-Valls said, adding the pontiff "had a good appetite" and ate everything.

The next planned medical bulletin on the pope's condition will be released Monday at 1130 GMT, he said. A decision has yet to be made on whether the pope will make an appearance to the faithful on Sunday.

John Paul had no signs of a lung infection such as pneumonia, Navarro-Valls said.

The pope wrote a note Thursday night to his aides after the surgery saying, "What did they do to me?" Navarro-Valls said, describing it as a joking message.

The pope then wrote a Latin expression on his coat of arms, "totus tuus," meaning he remains in the Virgin Mary's hands.

The pope, who has ruled the Catholic church for a quarter century, was breathing through a tube in his throat following the surgery.

Asked when the throat tube might be removed, Navarro-Valls said, "We are going to inform you in due time."

Gianna Letta, under-secretary for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said earlier, "He's fine, and he's tranquil. ... The doctors are satisfied with the way he has undergone the surgery."

A Vatican official said the operation, which involves cutting an incision into the windpipe, took about 30 minutes and ended without complications.

The pope was taken to the hospital on Thursday, less than two weeks after he had been released from the facility after a nine-day stay from complications of the flu.

The pontiff began feeling ill Wednesday and was taken to the hospital for "specialized treatment" and "further assessment," Navarro-Valls said Thursday.

A Polish priest close to the pope, interviewed on Polish TVN television during an evening newscast, sought to reassure viewers.

"This is not a terminal illness," the Rev. Conrad Hejno, a Dominican friar, said from Rome.

He added that people should "get used to" the fact the pope may be taken periodically to the hospital.

The pope has a massive following after leading the church, and its more than 1 billion adherents worldwide, since 1978.

A tracheotomy is a routine operation that typically requires general anesthesia, but it can be risky for elderly patients in fragile health, as the pope is.

"It's not the operation itself that is the concern, it's the anesthesia," said CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "That's a bigger risk than the operation."

U.S. President George W. Bush, flying home from a European trip, said: "The holy father is in our thoughts and prayers.

"We wish him a speedy recovery and return to the service of his church and all humanity."

Witnesses who saw the pope enter the hospital said he was conscious and appeared relaxed as he was rolled in on a stretcher.

The pope suffers from a number of chronic illnesses, including crippling hip and knee ailments and Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that can make breathing difficult.

Thursday's procedure was his 10th operation. He has had a hip replaced and survived a 1981 assassination attempt.

His latest illness has reopened debate about whether popes should retire instead of reigning for life. The last pope to abdicate was Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415. John Paul has repeatedly said he intends to carry out his mission until the end. (Full story)

True to his word, the pope has continued on with his work, reading his weekly address to the faithful from the window of his Vatican apartment on Sunday and appearing on closed-circuit television on Wednesday. His voice sounded gravelly, but he appeared animated. (Full story)

On the same day he released a book where he said homosexual marriages are part of a "new ideology of evil." (Full story)

Born Karol Wojtyla in Poland in 1920, John Paul II was elected to replace Pope John Paul I, who died after just 34 days at the helm of the church.

A staunch anti-Communist, the pope has used his moral authority to put pressure on Communist regimes during the Cold War, particularly in his own country where he gave key support to the Solidarity labor movement.

He has also been a theological traditionalist, rejecting the idea of women or married priests and championing the church's stands against abortion, euthanasia, artificial birth control, the death penalty and same-sex marriage.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Correspondent Jim Bittermann, Vatican Analyst Delia Gallagher and Journalist Jacek Dobrowolski contributed to this report.

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