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Catholics Pray for Pope, say He Should Not Step Down

With the pope in the hospital, Catholics around the world are praying for him to get better.

"We're saying our prayers for the pope, and we hope he will soon be well," said an Irish woman.

This Irish woman was in Saint Peter's Square Saturday. Her thoughts were with the pope, who is was hospitalized on Thursday with breathing problems. Like her, many other pilgrims are praying for him to get better.

"Just our luck that we come here, and he's in the hospital. It's really sad. We're praying for him," said Michela Morazzo, from the U.S. state of Arizona, who is disappointed that she will not be able to see or hear the pope during her visit to Rome.

Many pilgrims visiting Saint Peter's Square, outside the Vatican, say they are hopeful the pope will recover. They say he is strong, and he will get through with the help of the Madonna.

But others are not too sure. They say he is old, and note this is the second time he has been taken to the hospital this month.

Maureen Eastwell, from London, thinks the Vatican may not be giving the full story on the pope's true condition.

"I think he's very ill. I really do, and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't survive much longer," she said.

It has been a cold winter in Rome, and the pope came down with a bad flu. With a fever and breathing difficulties, he was rushed to the hospital on February 1.

His condition improved, and 10 days later, he returned to the Vatican. But last Thursday, he suffered another breathing crisis. Now, doctors have fitted a tube to his throat to help him breathe better. They have told him he must not speak for the next several days.

The pope's inability to speak, at least for the moment, has many people wondering whether he, in fact, should continue to lead the Roman Catholic Church from his hospital bed, or whether the time has come for him to step down.

Lauren Birnbaum, another pilgrim, thinks he should be able to continue to carry out his mission.

"Sure, if he is alert and oriented enough he can. … Just because you can't speak, it doesn't mean that you cannot communicate," she said. "If you have a mind, and you're able to write or anything, … you can still communicate, without being able to use your voice."

For the first time in his over 26-year papacy, the pope will neither appear nor have his voice heard at the traditional Angelus prayer on Sunday. One of his aids will read the pope's message and give his blessing in Saint Peter's Square, while the pope joins in the prayer from his hospital room.