The Vatican says Pope John Paul's recovery from throat surgery is going well and he may be returning to the Vatican by Easter. But still unclear is what his schedule will be for the Easter ceremonies, one of the busiest times of the year for the pope.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said the pope is continuing with his breathing and speaking exercises in the hospital. He added that the 84-year-old pope is doing well.

The spokesman said the health conditions of the Holy Father, John Paul II, are in continuous and progressive improvement. He also said the pope would like to return to the Vatican, but at the same time accepts his doctor's advice not to rush back too quickly.

It is still unclear exactly when the pope will be going back to his apartment inside the Vatican. Dr. Navarro-Valls said it is possible that the pope will be released from the hospital before Easter, but did not provide a date.

The pope has been recovering from tracheotomy surgery, which he underwent a week ago. The spokesman said the scar in his throat from the operation is healing well.

Dr. Nararro-Valls also said the pope eats regularly and spends some hours during the day in an armchair. He added that he has someone accompany him to the small chapel beside his hospital room and spends a lot of time there in prayer both in the morning and in the afternoon.

The spokesman added that the pope is receiving senior Vatican officials regularly and following the activities of the church.

With less than three weeks before Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Roman Catholic Easter ceremonies in the Vatican, many have been wondering whether the pope will be fit enough to take part in his activities.

The Vatican spokesman said no decision has been made regarding the pope's presence at Easter services. He said that decision would be made by the pope after he returns from the hospital.

The spokesman also said that a new medical bulletin would be issued next Monday.