No more parking as media descend on pope's hospital

“It’s like this every time the pope is hospitalised,” said the doctor clad in his white coat at the entrance to Rome’s Gemelli hospital, surrounded by a crush of reporters from around the world pushing to get information about Pope John Paul II’s health.

The Vatican spokesperson, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, called on everyone to “be calm” on Wednesday morning as police and security guards tried to control the mass of journalists whose number has been growing since the flu-stricken pontiff was hospitalised with breathing problems.

Some of the hospital’s patients, in their slippers and dressing gowns, gazed in amazement at the mass of reporters, cameramen and photographers forming a pyramid almost touching the ceiling at the entrance to the hospital, where the pope has been admitted for the eighth time since the start of his papacy.

“Oh, the pope, he such a powerful man ... still, I believe he’s nearing the end,” said Luciano (68), who is hospitalised in the same wing as the pontiff.

He learned about the arrival of the famous patient, a few floors above him, from a television report. It is impossible to visit the 10th floor where the Vatican has three rooms: the elevator botton is locked.

“The pope has his own personnel,” said Anna-Maria, who worked as a nurse on the pontiff’s floor.

“His room is completely normal, with a little crucifix as in the other rooms. The only special thing is a small living area with a comfortable armchair,” she said.

At the hospital reception, the hubbub of the media continues without a break. The security guards ask the anxious crowd of journalists to move their equipment so patients can make their way through.

The press “could have set up elsewhere, there are other patients here”, said a father whose daughter is in the hospital for an operation on a tumour. The journalists “took all the parking spaces”.

Gemelli, considered one of the best hospitals in the Italian capital, has about 2 000 beds.

“Everyone is interested in the pope,” said one pajama-clad patient, hospitalised for a liver transplant. “No one wants to take my picture.”—Sapa-AFP

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