Pope Undergoes Surgery

Surgery would affect pope's ability to handle his duties

The surgery that reportedly has been performed on Pope John Paul could have a serious impact on his abilities to carry out his duties.

Italian news agencies say doctors have performed a tracheotomy to help him breathe. It's a procedure in which a hole is made in the throat and a tube is inserted to assist breathing. The operation would prevent the pope from being able to speak for an extended period of time. It would also probably require a long hospital stay. And, just the anesthesia required for surgery is risky for a person of the pope's age -- especially considering that he has Parkinson's disease.

The pope is 84 years old.