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Vatican: Pope's Surgery Successful

The Vatican's chief spokesman said Pope John Paul II underwent successful surgery Thursday evening to help him with his breathing problems. The operation was carried out just hours after the pope was rushed to the hospital for the second time this month.

Pope John Paul is in his hospital room at Rome's Gemelli hospital recovering from surgery. For the second time this month he was rushed to the hospital with breathing problems and a fever linked to the flu.

This time the doctors decided a tracheotomy would help his condition and after the pope's consent the operation was carried out.

Following the surgery the Vatican's chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the operation, which involved inserting a tube in the pope's throat, was concluded in a positive manner.

In a statement, the spokesman also said the operation had lasted 30 minutes. The pope was reported to be breathing using a respirator and conscious after the surgery.

One of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's close aides, Gianni Letta, visited the pope and said he was serene after waking up from the anesthesia.

The Vatican was expected to provide further details about the pope's health condition in the morning when it issues a medical bulletin. It is unclear how many days the pope may need to stay in the hospital this time.

Pope John Paul was returned to the Vatican two weeks ago after having spent 10 days in the hospital. He had appeared to be recovering well from his flu but then suffered a relapse, which forced his hospitalization Thursday.

His relapse and the surgery has raised concern that the pope may not be able to speak for some time, if at all. It also has many wondering how he will continue to lead the Catholic Church if he is to remain in the hospital for a protracted length of time.

The pope's health condition has also reminded many that one of history's longest papacies may be drawing to a close. Pope John Paul, who was elected in 1978, has always made it clear that he would not step down and that his mission is in the hands of the Lord.