The pope's health condition will not allow him yet to recite the Sunday prayer, but the Vatican said he will give his blessing from the hospital where he is recovering from the flu. The Vatican said his traditional noon message would be read by one of his aides.
In a statement Saturday, the Vatican also said that the Ash Wednesday ceremony would be presided over by U.S. Cardinal James Stafford, and not by the pope. This will be the first time that the pope misses this ceremony in his 26-years as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Saturday was the pope's fourth full day in Rome's Gemelli hospital, where he was taken by ambulance late Tuesday night, when he suffered a breathing crisis. One-hundred bishops from different Christian denominations prayed for the pope's recovery Saturday in the hospital's chapel.
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, who visited the pope, said he found him well, and eager to get back to work. But it remains unclear when the pontiff will return to the Vatican. The papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, has said he expected the pope to remain in hospital for at least a week.
The pope has not been seen in public since last Sunday, when he addressed the crowds in Saint Peter's Square. Many Catholics continue to stream into the square every day, and say they are concerned about the 84-year-old pope's health.
The Vatican has said the pope's condition has been improving steadily, and that the pope is eating normally and breathing better. The papal spokesman also said Friday there would be no need for another medical bulletin until Monday.