Pope John Paul II returned to Rome this morning at the end of a trip that took him to Canada, Guatemala and Mexico. He was immediately taken to his summer residence in the hills south of Rome.
As soon as he arrived at Rome's Ciampino military airport, the pope was whisked away in an open-top Mercedes, but not to the Vatican. He was driven to the papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo, in the hills overlooking the lake south of Rome.
There, the pope will rest for two weeks. He needs to recover and gather new strength for his next trip. On August 16, he is scheduled to travel back home, to his native Poland for three days.
His just-ended trip was an exhausting one for the 82-year-old pope. Despite his frail health he made it through the 11-day tour which took him first to Toronto for World Youth Day celebrations, and then Guatemala and Mexico, where he presided over two canonization ceremonies.
Although energized by the youth meeting and happy to announce two new saints of the Catholic Church, the pope often looked fatigued during his public appearances. John Paul has been suffering from a series of ailments, including Parkinson's disease and arthritis. His pain is often evident.
In Toronto, the pope briefly referred to the sex scandals that have been rocking the Catholic Church. He expressed shame for the behavior of some members of the clergy and called for "a civilization of love". In Guatemala and Mexico, the pope called for solidarity with indigenous peoples and respect for their cultures and aspirations.