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Pope reads address in strong voice

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Pope John Paul II greets the faithful.

Pope John Paul II, with a weakened voice, delivers blessing.

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John Paul II
Catholic Church

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II read his weekly address to the faithful Sunday in a relatively strong voice, 10 days after being released from a hospital where he was treated for breathing difficulties.

The 84-year-old pontiff read the brief message from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. He stopped briefly to cough but had no other apparent problems.

"I greet the pilgrims gathered here," he said, to cheers and applause. "I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week."

The pope told the crowd that the essential task of the papacy was to ensure "the unity of the church," adding that the call "to guard his flock" was "particularly alive in (him)."

Last Sunday, the pope looked alert as he waved to a larger-than-usual crowd with a shaking hand. He gave a brief greeting before an aide continued with the message. (Full story)

The pope's Sunday address at St. Peter's is a cherished weekly tradition for Roman Catholics.

John Paul II was discharged from a Rome hospital February 10, nine days after checking in for breathing problems.

"The acute laryngeal tracheitis that was the reason for urgently admitting the Holy Father to the hospital has healed. The improvement of his general conditions continues favorably," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said at the time.

The pope suffers from a number of chronic ailments, including Parkinson's disease and crippling hip and knee ailments.

The pope has undergone nine operations -- including a hip replacement -- and survived an assassination attempt.

His latest illness reopened debate about whether popes should retire instead of reigning for life. No pope has abdicated since the 15th century and John Paul repeatedly has said he intends to carry out his mission until the end. (Full story)

The debate was fueled when the Vatican's No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, declined to rule out that possibility, saying it was up to the pope's "conscience."

Another cardinal told a newspaper Saturday that the pontiff was fully able to make decisions and that he would probably be able to travel to Cologne, Germany, in August for World Youth Day.

"I am in fact sure that ... he will continue to have the real capacity to work. ... That is expressed not only in his speeches but in the decisions that are taken," Cardinal Camillo Ruini told La Repubblica.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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