.BY OUR ROME CORRESPONDENT
Doc-roas B. ROME said Pope John Paul II was recovering well from the operation to replace part of his thigh bone following his fall earlier this week, but predicted he would need several weeks before fully resuming his duties.
"The Pope is in good general condition, and I found him in great humour," said Vatican spokesman Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls following the two-hour operation in Rome's Gemelli Clinic.
He said John Paul was already beginning to improve, and had begun muscle-toning exercises in bed. He has already met with top aides in his hospital room.
The operation had gone "more perfectly than one could imagine", according to Dr Gianfranco Fineschi, who performed the surgery. He said there would be no further medical tests on the Pope, and predicted a full recovery within weeks.
The Pope, who celebrates his 74th birthday later this month, fell getting out of the bathtub in the papal apartments at the Vatican late on Thursday night last week, breaking his right thigh-bone close to the hip. Doctors replaced the head of the bone, where it fits into the hip, with a metal prosthesis.
Earlier, Dr Navarro-Valls had ruled out fainting or dizziness as the cause. "It was a banal accident, unfortunately very common when one has wet feet and is getting out of the bath," he told reporters.
In a tape-recorded Sunday blessing on I May, the Pope said he was sorry the accident had forced him to postpone his planned trip to Sicily and miss the rest of the African Synod.
Meanwhile, a Sicilian priest has claimed that an exorcism he performed on the eve of John Paul U's scheduled visit to the Southern Italian island last week could be the "cause" of the accident, forcing him to postpone the trip.
The unnamed priest, described only as an "official" diocesan exorcist in Catania, Sicily, said that during an exorcism, "a demon said that if I were to cast it out of the body it had possessed, it would see to it that the Pope would be unable to visit Catania as planned".
The priest reported that he continued with the exorcism and that the victim of possession was "delivered from the experience unharmed".
Just hours later, we were informed that the Pontiff would not be coming to Sicily because of his accident", he said.
The priest has given a full account to Catania's archbishop Luigi Bomrnarito, who tried to play down the incident.
"The priest seemed a little excitable to me. We have to be very careful about things of this kind", the archbishop said.
As John Paul H's convalescence continued this week , faithful in Catania were increasingly convinced that he would never visit their city.