The Pope underlined his opposition to euthanasia yesterday when he met the sick and dying on their pilgrimages to Lourdes.
He told them to accept death "at the hour chosen by God," at an open-air Mass on the final day of his visit to France.
He administered the sacrament of the sick to pilgrims in wheelchairs and on trolleys, many bundled in quilts against the chill.
The Pope said the ill should pray to find "the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."
The message has special resonance in Europe.
Belgium and The Netherlands have legalised euthanasia, and Switzerland allows counsellors or physicians to prepare a lethal dose, although patients must administer it.
France permits patients to refuse treatment but stops short of allowing euthanasia. The debate in France was revived with the death of a woman whose tumour burrowed through her head, leaving her with constant pain, haemorrhaging and having difficulty eating.
The Mass for the sick outside the gold mosaic facade of the Basilica of the Rosary was the final stop of his visit to Lourdes. The shrine in the foothills of the French Pyrenees draws six million pilgrims a year, many of whom believe Lourdes' spring water has the power to heal and work miracles. …