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Pope John Paul II Skips Holy Thursday Ceremonies

Pope John Paul II has sent a message to the faithful celebrating Holy Thursday ceremonies in Saint Peter's Basilica that he is united with them in spirit.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re read the pontiff's message, telling those present the pope is watching the ceremonies on television. It was the first time in John Paul's 26-year papacy that he has failed to preside over Holy Thursday masses.

Later, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo read a message from the pope assuring the congregation he is with them in heart and spirit. The cardinal washed the feet of 12 priests as Jesus Christ washed those of his apostles at the Last Supper.

The ceremonies came a month after the 84-year-old pope underwent throat surgery to ease breathing problems arising from the flu. The pontiff has scaled back activities with only one Easter appointment, a blessing to the city and the world.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.