A large crowd of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square Sunday in the hope of seeing the pope on a large video screen hooked up to his hospital room. The pope has been at Gemelli hospital since Tuesday with a bad flu.

At noon, the pope appeared at the window of the hospital with one of his aides. The crowds rejoiced and cheered.

Pope John Paul appeared rested, and not much different from the way pilgrims are used to seeing him. One of the pope's aides read his Sunday message to those gathered in the square and at the hospital.

In the message, the pope thanked hospital staff for their assistance, and the pilgrims for their prayers and affection. He said he would continue to carry out his mission, serving the church and the whole of humanity.

Then in a hoarse voice, the pope blessed the crowd.

The weakness of his voice was evident, and many realized that his speech difficulties may now have taken a turn for the worse. Pilgrims asked themselves whether he will be able to read his messages again, when he returns to the Vatican.

Nevertheless, they were relieved to see him, and the crowd broke out in applause after he spoke.

It was the first time since Sunday that the pope has appeared in public. Some said he is strong, and will recover, as he has done in the past.

"He looked weak, but that is expected, if you have a fairly serious illness. We just keep praying that he will recover," said Greg Liebes, a seminarian from Chicago, who was in the crowd.

It is unclear when the pope will return to the Vatican. The papal spokesman has been reassuring about the pope's health, saying it is improving steadily.

He said earlier this week the pope would stay in the hospital for at least a week. A new medical bulletin on the pope's condition is expected on Monday.