VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II is breathing on his own and is not suffering from pneumonia, the Vatican said Friday, taking pains to cast his condition in a positive light a day after he was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery to ease another breathing crisis.
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the frail 84-year-old John Paul spent a restful night at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic, where doctors advised him not to speak for a few days.
John Paul's latest hospitalization was certain to further fuel speculation about whether he could continue as pope, and what would happen if he was incapacitated.
The pontiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital Thursday after suffering his second bout of breathing trouble in less than a month. Navarro-Valls told reporters that John Paul was given a mild anesthetic and the operation that doctors performed to cut a small breathing hole in his neck "was not an emergency procedure."
"It was a question of assuring adequate breathing of the patient," he said.
A doctor trained in emergency assistance has been on call at the Vatican but there was never any need for him, Navarro-Valls said.
Italian news agencies had reported that John Paul was placed on a respirator after the surgery, but Navarro-Valls said the pope "had no need of assisted breathing."
"Assisted means mechanical, which wasn't used yesterday, nor last night, nor this morning. There was no need," he said.
John Paul had no fever, Navarro-Valls added. The pope's postoperative condition was progressing normally and that he was breathing better, he said.
"The Holy Father spent a night of tranquil rest," he said. "This morning, he ate breakfast with a good appetite. He's breathing on his own and cardio-circulatory conditions remain good.
"Upon the advice of his doctors, the pope must not speak for several days, so as to favor the recovery of the functions of the larynx," Navarro-Valls said.
Navarro-Valls said the pope's breakfast included coffee with milk, 10 cookies and yogurt.
"He ate everything," the spokesman said.
The pope wrote a note Thursday night to his aides saying, "What did they do to me?" Navarro-Valls said, describing it as a joking message.
"I am always 'totus tuus,'" Navarro-Valls quoted the pope as writing. "Totus tuus" is John Paul's Latin motto translated by his spokesman as meaning, "I am completely in your hands."
The Vatican did not expect to issue another medical bulletin until Monday.
Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, arrived at the hospital, anxious for an update on John Paul's condition.
"We have come to get firsthand information on the pope's health and to express our solidarity with him in this moment of further trial and suffering," said Di Segni, who did not see the pope. He said he and members of his delegation prayed for the pontiff.
Navarro-Valls said a decision would be made Saturday on what the pope will do for his Sunday noon blessing, a tradition very dear to the pontiff.
The Vatican had said late Thursday that the pontiff was conscious and "serene" after tracheotomy surgery to cut a small hole in his neck and insert a tube. Navarro-Valls said it was not clear how long the tube will remain.
"The doctors will decide," he said.
Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta, Premier Silvio Berlusconi's right-hand man, told reporters at Gemelli late Thursday that he had met the pope, who appeared well. After the operation, John Paul raised his hand and attempted to speak with doctors but was told not to try, Letta said.
"I entered Gemelli very somber and sad, and I leave very satisfied," Letta said. "Doctors are very satisfied both at how he got through the operation and in these first hours of the postoperative phase."
The tracheotomy will likely have serious consequences for the pope's ability to carry on his duties. The operation would prevent him from being able to speak for an extended period and probably require a long hospital stay.
Vatican officials said on condition of anonymity that the pope - who suffers from Parkinson's disease and crippling hip and knee ailments - was stricken with breathing problems similar to those that sent him to Gemelli on Feb. 1 for a 10-day stay, and Italian news reports said the latest respiratory crisis was even more severe than the first one.
Navarro-Valls said the pope had been informed of his situation and gave approval for the operation. John Paul's flu symptoms had worsened in recent days with renewed respiratory problems, leading to the decision to perform the tracheotomy, the spokesman said.
Before the operation, the pope was well enough to joke with his medical team, Letta said. When doctors told the pope that the operation would be a small one, the pope retorted: "Small, it depends for whom," according to Letta, who cited doctors' accounts.
ANSA reported that the pope was conscious when he arrived at Gemelli and was sitting upright in a stretcher. According to the report, people who saw him enter the hospital said he looked "quite relaxed."
Thursday's hospitalization was the pope's eighth since his election in 1978.
Dr. Corrado Manni, the pope's former anesthesiologist, told the newspaper La Stampa that John Paul should have "definitely" stayed hospitalized longer after his first crisis, but he added that the pope was also a "difficult" patient after the 1981 attempt on his life.
"He told me: 'The pope is either well, and then he must leave, or he is not well, and then he must stay.' I answered him: 'Your Holiness, there is a state of illness and of well-being, but in the middle there is a third state, that of convalescence.' Words spoken to the wind. I understand the difficulties his aides must have in dealing with such a situation. The Holy Father is difficult."
The frail pontiff had greeted pilgrims twice at the window of his studio at St. Peter's Square since his Feb. 10 release from Gemelli, and on Wednesday he made his longest public appearance since falling ill more than three weeks ago.
With each successive appearance, he seemed a little stronger, a little more alert, and his voice rang out with greater clarity. That made Thursday's reversal all the more shocking for the faithful.
"We are so scared because he has been sick in the past," said Vanessa Animo Bono, 32, a Roman Catholic being treated at Gemelli.
Outside the hospital, law student Francesca Sciauchi brought a bouquet of roses with a message attached from 1,000 classmates who will be graduating Monday. She said the message read: "Get well soon. You are our guide, with your spiritual faith that is a font of knowledge."