March 28, 2005

Rainier's Condition Stabilizes; Monaco Citizens Pray

MONACO - The health of Europe's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Rainier of Monaco, stabilized Sunday while citizens prayed for him at an Easter mass in the tiny Mediterranean principality.

However, doctors warned that the condition of the 81-year-old Rainier, widower of Hollywood film star Grace Kelly, was "still worrying" and said they remained very cautious about his prospects of survival.

Rainier is in intensive care in a Monaco hospital where he was taken suffering from a lung infection, complicated by cardiac and kidney problems.

A health bulletin issued by his palace Sunday said the prince was conscious though under sedation, while the deterioration of his vital functions had been halted.

"The state of health of his Most Serene Highness Prince Rainier III still remains worrying," said the bulletin, signed by the prince's three doctors.

"His cardiac, lung and kidney functions that were continuing to deteriorate have stabilized," it added. "The sovereign is conscious but under sedation, which allows him to tolerate absolutely indispensable respiratory assistance."

Rainer has been breathing through an artificial respirator at Monaco's Cardiothoracic Center since Wednesday.

Pope John Paul, himself battling fragile health, sent a message of support at the weekend.


While Rainier's family attended a private mass in the palace chapel Sunday, the archbishop of Monaco urged the faithful to pray for both the prince and Pope at a cathedral mass.

"The health of our sovereign, his Most Serene Highness Prince Rainier, worries us deeply, the health of our Pope, Jean Paul II, as well," Archbishop Bernard Barsi said in the cathedral draped with the colors of Monaco and the Vatican.

"I invite all the faithful to pray for these two exceptional men."

Rainier's eldest daughter Princess Caroline returned from Paris last week and heir-apparent Prince Albert, 47, left an Italian ski resort to be by their father's bedside in the Mediterranean enclave his family has ruled for 700 years.

Their sister Stephanie and Rainier's grandchildren have all been to see the prince.

Monaco citizens were keeping an anxious eye on the flag flying at full mast from the prince's palace, built on the coastal rock Rainier's ancestor Francois Grimaldi seized from the Genoese in 1297.

Europe's last constitutional autocrat, Rainier succeeded his grandfather in 1949. He led Monaco, a 1 square mile territory tucked between Nice and the Italian border, into an age of skyscrapers, international banking and business.

Born on May 31, 1923, the prince has cut a lonely figure in recent years. Princess Grace, who Rainier married in 1956, died in 1982.

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