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Pope appears close to death

Vatican City, April 1
Pope John Paul appeared close to death on Friday after heart failure and breathing problems, but was still conscious and in a stable but serious condition at midday, the Vatican said.

Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope had received the “Holy Viaticum” communion, reserved for those near death, after a sharp downturn in his health overnight. He told his aides he did not want to return to hospital for treatment.

The Pope’s deteriorating health sparked an outpouring of emotion and anxiety among the more than one billion Roman Catholics around the world, especially in his native Poland. “He is still conscious. At this moment the situation is stable but significantly serious conditions remain,” Navarro-Valls told journalists, adding the Pontiff had celebrated Mass from his bed as dawn broke.

Navarro-Valls fought back tears and said he had never seen the Pope in such a state during his 26 years as head of the world’s largest church. “The Pope is lucid,” he said. “He is extraordinarily serene even though naturally he has breathing problems.”

Senior clergy indicated John Paul’s life was ebbing away. “He is fading serenely,” Polish Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, a close friend, was quoted as saying by Agi news agency. Italian media reported on Friday morning that John Paul was in a coma, but the Vatican quickly dismissed that as “rubbish”. A Vatican statement earlier on Friday said the Pope had developed a high fever on Thursday evening caused by a urinary infection. “A state of septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse set in,” it said.

“Septic shock puts a phenomenal strain on the heart. Even the fittest patients need specialist care and medicine to survive,” said Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation.

After a pope dies, cardinals from around the world are called to Rome to chose a successor at a conclave which starts in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel 15 to 20 days after the death. There is no favourite candidate to take over as head of the 1.1 billion-member Church, and Wojtyla himself was seen as an outsider before he was elected in October 1978.

Senior clergy rushed to the Vatican on Friday morning as his health worsened. Italian media reported that the Pope’s temperature leapt to around 40 C (104 F) on Thursday afternoon and his blood pressure plunged, a day after doctors had inserted a feeding tube through his nose and into his stomach to boost his fading strength. The third-longest-serving pope in history spent 28 days in hospital in two periods in February and March after suffering breathing crises.— Reuters


Catholics hold special prayers for Pope’s recovery
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 1
Special prayers were held in the Catholic churches here on Friday afternoon in response to news from Vatican about the critical condition of 84-year-old Pope John Paul II.

Dr Babu Joseph, Spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said Pope John Paul II was anointed with the sacrament of the sick on Friday morning. He explained that a specially blessed oil is applied by the Bishop on the forehead of the person when he is very ill. It signifies the forgiving of sins and preparing the person for the journey into another world.

Dr Joseph said prayers for the good health of the Pope, the Head of the Catholic Church in the world, were offered in Catholic churches in Bangalore, Delhi, Cochin, Kolkata, Mumbai and Trivandrum. In Delhi, a large number of Catholics joined Bishop Vincent in the Sacred Heart Cathedral in hour-long prayer today for the recovery of the Pope who has had the longest Papal reign spanning 26 years.

The CBCI spokesperson, who has been hosted by Pope John Paul II in Vatican in 2003, recalled that the Pope was very frugal in his food habits. “Because of his communist background, he is very strong mentally. He has seen difficult times in communist Poland. He has strong opinion on human freedom, promotion of life, international peace and inter-religious harmony. In his youth, Pope John Paul II was fond of mountaineering, football and theatre.”

He recalled that during his week-long stay with Pope John Paul II in Vatican, he was impressed by his zeal and determination.

“When the Iraq war took place, he spoke very strongly against the war without any fear.”

Dr Joseph has very fond memories of the 1999 India visit of Pope John Paul II when he lit ‘diyas’ and candles on Divali and convened an inter-religious prayer meeting at Vigyan Bhavan. Pope John Paul II had come to release a document titled “Church in Asia” written by the team of Bishops in Rome.

“He expressed deep respect and love for the religions of India. Whenever he visits a new country, he kneels and kisses the ground. This shows his tremendous respect for various cultures.”

The CBCI spokesperson described Pope John Paul II as the most widely travelled Pope, who was known for his Pastoral visits. Pope John Paul II made a Pastoral visit to India in 1986.

Asked about the election of the next Pope in the event of a tragedy, Dr Joseph said the College of Cardinals elected one of the Cardinals as the Pope through secret ballot.Back

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