Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

POPE: LET ME DIE AT HOME; Critically Ill but Vowing to Stay at VaticanHe Is Serenely Leaving This Life, Aide Says Today Prayers for Pope around the World

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

POPE: LET ME DIE AT HOME; Critically Ill but Vowing to Stay at VaticanHe Is Serenely Leaving This Life, Aide Says Today Prayers for Pope around the World

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY CHARLES;PATRICK SAWER

THE POPE was said today to be "serenely leaving this life" after deciding to die at the Vatican.

His condition worsened after he suffered heart failure and he has received the last rites. But the 84-year-old Pontiff has told close aides he does not want to go to hospital. Instead he continues to receive treatment at his apartments. A mass was held for him with close aides and he was described as "lucid and tranquil".

Prayers were being said at the Brompton Oratory, Westminster Cathedral and at Catholic churches throughout Britain.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster said: "We are, metaphorically, watching and waiting by the Pope's bedside and praying for him." Catholics around the world also prayed for the Pontiff as Vatican officials described his condition as "very grave".

Father Jarek Cielecki, in charge of Vatican TV, said: "John Paul II is serenely leaving this life but he continues to be conscious."

The Pope's sudden deterioration was brought on by a urinary tract infection leading to septic shock and heart failure. Leader of the world's one billion Catholics for 26 years, the Polish-born Pope has lived an extraordinary life, participating in the collapse of communism, taking an often controversial stance on birth control and abortion and more recently fiercely criticising President Bush for his attack on Iraq. He has been seriously ill for several weeks.

Early this morning he developed a fever and was given antibiotics.

At 6.32am Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls described the situation as "very serious". The Pope received a special form of Holy Communion reserved for the dying.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and seen as a possible successor, last night said the Pope was "approaching, as far as a person can tell, the end of his life".

Cardinal Schoenborn said he hoped for the Pope's sake that "the moment of relief comes for him". A Vatican official warned: "Hardly anyone thinks the situation will improve, but everyone is hoping for a miracle." Small groups of Catholics gathered on the edge of St Peter's Square in Rome to pray as news of his worsening condition spread. …

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