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Pope Gives Silent Blessing at Easter Celebration

Pope John Paul II appeared in St. Peter's Square in celebration of Easter Sunday, but was unable to pronounce his Easter blessing to the world. Tens of thousands had gathered at the Vatican after illness forced the pope to miss Holy Week events for the first time since his election in 1978.

The 84-year-old pope viewed the crowd from his window but blessed them silently, making the sign of the cross, after attempting to address the gathering. Earlier, John Paul had chosen Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, to lead the holiday mass.

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Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.