Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Vatican insists the ailing pontiff will continue his duties


The Vatican insisted on Tuesday that Pope John Paul II will carry out his duties this week despite reports by one of the Holy See's top officials that said the pope was in poor health.

The 83-year-old pontiff "will tomorrow [yesterday] hold his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square and we confirmed today that he will take Mass on Sunday for the canonisation of three believers," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

The pope also held an audience on Tuesday with four Filipino bishops and his envoy to Libya, Monsignor Felix del Blanco Prieto.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican's influential congregation on doctrine, told the German weekly magazine Bunte in an interview released on Tuesday that the pope was probably taking on more than he should.

"His health is bad. We should pray for the pope," he said.

The pope's health sparked concern during a visit to Slovakia earlier this month -- the 102nd foreign mission of his pontificate -- when he failed to complete a single address.

He has seemed increasingly frail, stuttering and trembling from the effects of Parkinson's disease.

Last week he cancelled a weekly audience, although he took part later in a number of public events and nominated 31 new cardinals.

Next month he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his ascension to the papal throne.

Ratzinger's private secretary Georg Gaenswein told Bunte that although the pope could neither walk nor stand on his own, "for the faithful he's a hero.

"How he does not give up despite his infirmity -- that makes him even more believable. God will come for him when he cannot travel any more."

On Tuesday evening, an official of Vatican Radio, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, told journalists at an appearance in Rome that there were no new developments about the pontiff's health.

"The pope is so very exposed to the view of everyone that each one of us can form his own opinion," Lombardi said. "I don't think that Cardinal Ratzinger has confidential or secret news to tell about the state of his health. As Christians we can pray for him and watch how the situation evolves."

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