Pope John II will not be leading the celebrations of Holy Week as usual. The Vatican has announced that the pope will instead participate from his apartments. The pope is still recovering in the Vatican after a tracheotomy in February to help his breathing problems. These were first brought on by influenza but are complicated by Parkinsons disease from which the 84-year old pope has been suffering for many years.

The Holy Week celebrations in Rome, which lead up to Easter on 27 March this year, are particularly arduous. They begin with the long Palm Sunday Mass, continue with the ceremony of the Lords supper and the washing of the feet on Thursday, the Via Crucis re-enactment at the Colosseum in Rome on Friday, a long and difficult ceremony which is particularly close to John Paul IIs heart, the Easter Vigil Mass late on Saturday evening and finish with the popes blessing Urbi et Orbi on Easter Sunday morning in Rome.

It is the first time in his pontificate that John Paull II has not celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass, which opens Holy Week, but it is still hoped that he will be well enough to give the blessing on Easter Sunday.

It is not yet clear who will celebrate the ceremonies in place of the pope, although the leading cardinals in the Vatican hierarchy, such as cardinals Sodano. Ratzinger and Ruini, will probably step in to lead them.