The Holy Father continued to be under the care of the Gemelli Poly-clinic and Vatican doctors. On Friday, 5 June, he recorded his address for the Solemnity of Pentecost to which the bishops of the whole world were invited.
The occasion was the 1,600th anniversary of the First Council of Constantinople and the 1,550th of the Council of Ephesus. During these celebrations the Pope — in the spirit of the message of Fatima — wanted to entrust to the Most Holy Mother the Church and the world and, in a special way, those countries which, more than all the others, were expecting this act.
On Pentecost Sunday, June 7, Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica.
A recording of the Holy Father's homily was broadcast, and at the end of the liturgy he himself came to the basilica's internal loggia to impart his blessing, to the great joy of all. The address that preceded the Regina Caeli was also reproduced from a tape recording. The Holy Father appeared at the window of his private study only to impart his blessing to the large crowd gathered on St. Peter's Square.
The important ceremony during which the Holy Father entrusted the Church and the world to the Mother of God took place in St. Mary Major in the afternoon. Delegations of bishops from every continent took part. The words of this act, prepared by the Pope, were broadcast by Vatican Radio. The Holy Father followed the whole ceremony on television.
Cardinal Otunga of Nairobi presided, and the procession was led by Cardinal Corripio of Mexico. Thus was fulfilled the great desire of the Polish Bishops and of the Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, expressed during the Second Vatican Council.
However on Tuesday, June 9, the Pope's fever returned, and he had a general relapse. Analyses and examinations began in order to find the cause.
He felt acute pain and began to lose his strength. In addition, the constant examinations were exhausting and had no concrete results. His temperature soared to [104 degrees Farenheit], where it remained for days, increasingly sapping his strength. Another two professors were summoned to join the medical team: Prof. Giunchi, a specialist in internal medicine, and the famous surgeon, Prof. Fegiz.
On Sunday, June 14, the Holy Father reappeared at the window for the prayer of the Regina Caeli.
On June 17 the Pope briefly met the [Polish] farmer's union Solidarnosc. The medical team, concerned by his state of health and even fearing for his life, decided that he should return to the Gemelli Polyclinic. He was so weak that he could not read the breviary on his own. At 4:30 p.m. on 20 June, the Pope was once again transferred to the Polyclinic for more precise examinations, which did not immediately reveal the causes of the patient's condition.
On June 22 infiltrations in the lungs became apparent but gradually disappeared. On that day for the first time the cytomegalovirus was identified as the cause of those very serious complications. This discovery made it possible to apply the appropriate treatment. At the Gemelli Polyclinic, the Pope continued dealing with many official matters. In the day he would receive his coworkers, including the present Nuncio, Msgr. Rakoczy, who then constituted the Polish Section of the Secretariat of State.
At that time the appointment of the new Primate of Poland was imminent.
Peter on the Cot
This was uppermost in the Holy Father's mind and heart. After a thorough consultation by the bishops, Bishop Jozef Glemp was chosen. Cardinal Franciszek Macharski arrived in Rome. So did Bishop Jozef Glemp. On 6 July the Holy Father wrote a letter to the Church in Poland concerning the new Primate's appointment.
The Pope's state of health had so improved that the doctors began to think about a second operation, to close the colostomy. However, most of the professors suggested delaying the operation, in consideration of the patient's enfeebled condition. The Holy Father felt that the operation should not be postponed. He wanted to leave the hospital completely cured.
On July 10, his condition began once again to deteriorate, with progressive inflammation of the lungs. In the doctors’ opinion, these serious symptoms and complications were still being caused by the presence of the cytomegalovirus. I must stress here the great dedication and concern of the doctors of the Gemelli Polyclinic and of the Vatican.
We are particularly grateful to the nurses and Sisters of the Sacred Heart, faithful handmaids of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On July 16, the day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the illness took a decisive turn and a general improvement in his condition was recorded. The Holy Father faced the daily problems with renewed vitality; he began to work out the program for the forthcoming Synod with Archbishop Jozef Tomko and to follow the Curia's work, every day receiving Cardinal Casaroli, Archbishop Martinez and other heads of dicasteries.
He once again turned his attention to political events, and particularly the situation in Poland. On July 20 the would-be assassin's trial began. The matter was a sensitive one for the Holy Father and for the Apostolic See. The Pope had forgiven him but the instruments of Italian justice had to initiate the procedures required by the law.
On July 23, the Holy Father took part in the medical consultation during which he expressed his own point of view on the treatment and asked the doctors to take it into account.
He firmly insisted on having the operation, so as to be able to return home fully functioning. The doctors seemed embarrassed, but did not exclude the possibility of a second operation. It was Professor Crucitti in particular who persuaded the others that it was appropriate to take the patient's wishes into consideration. The Holy Father was feeling better and better, although his physical resistance was still weak.
No Rest in the Hospital
Despite the hospital conditions, he worked without respite. His day began with the recitation of the Little Office in Honour of Our Lady and Morning prayers and meditation; then came the doctor's visit, the recitation of the breviary, visits from guests — official visits and those which had not been planned.
Of course, he also met friends who arrived from Poland. The essential topics of the Church's life and the prominent issues in the various fields of culture and science frequently recurred in his conversations.
In the evenings, the Holy Father concelebrated the Eucharist. A small group of guests always took part. Towards the end of his stay in the clinic, a crowd of pilgrims would wait outside the hospital: parish and pious groups, choirs and individuals. The Pope would greet them from his window and impart his Apostolic Blessing to them.
On July 31, the medical decision concerning the second operation was to be made. After a heated discussion, the date was fixed for Aug. 5. The Holy Father himself chose the day dedicated to Our Lady of Snows. The operation began at 7 a.m. and lasted an hour. Professor Crucitti operated, assisted by the other professors. It was successful. Surgery brought the Holy Father true relief and allowed him a normal life. During the operation, his closest co-workers were celebrating Mass in the hospital chapel.
On Aug. 6, the patient could already take a few steps in his room. On that day, the Primate Jozef Glemp paid him a visit with Archbishop Bronislaw Dabrowski. They concelebrated Mass for Paul Vl on the anniversary of his death. In the days that followed, the Pope gradually recovered and there were no further complications.
On Aug. 10, the doctors began to speak of his discharge. The Holy Father was greeting the numerous pilgrims’ groups from his hospital window more and more often. In addition to his concern for the whole Church he was living intensely the situation in Poland, from which he was receiving news of the military maneuvers, of the protests of Solidarnosc and of the con-vocation of the plenum of the party's Central Committee.
On Aug. 13, the doctors met and after the consultation wrote the bulletin concerning the end of the Holy Father's hospital stay and his return home.
On the morning of Aug. 14, after prayers and adoration, the Pope spoke to the patients in the hospital and took his leave of the doctors and staff who had cared for him.
At the entrance of the Gemelli Polyclinic and in front of the building a large crowd had gathered, including numerous journalists. The Holy Father said a fast goodbye to the doctors and then returned to the Vatican by car.
After crossing St. Peter's Square, he entered the basilica. In the courtyard of St. Damasus, he told the cardinals and Curia staff present: “I paid a visit to St. Peter to thank him for deigning to let his Successor survive. I visited the tombs of Paul Vl and John Paul I, for there might well have been another tomb beside them.”
The Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, Aug. 15, was the first day after the assassination attempt on which the Holy Father could at last feel he had finished with medical and hospital treatment. Tens of thousands of people flocked to St. Peter's Square to take part in the midday Angelus with him. That day marked the end of the great drama, during which the Holy Father was able to have a unique experience of the goodness, tender concern and protection of the Most Holy Mother. This conviction motivated and still today motivates him.
When he returned to St. Peter's Square to meet the faithful at the General Audience two months later, he thanked them all for their prayers and confessed: “Again I have become indebted to the Blessed Virgin and to all the Patron Saints. Could I forget that the event in St. Peter's Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over 60 years at Fatima in Portugal? For, in every thing that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet” (General Audience, Oct. 7, 1981, No. 6).