Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pope Given Communion for the Dying as He 'Serenely Leaves This Life'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pope Given Communion for the Dying as He 'Serenely Leaves This Life'

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY CHARLES;PATRICK SAWER

THE POPE was today "serenely leaving this life" after telling aides he wanted to die at the Vatican.

His condition worsened when he suffered heart failure and late last night he received the last rites which includes Holy Communion for the dying.

The 84-year-old Pontiff decided he did not want to go to hospital. Instead he continues to receive treatment at his apartments.

This morning four senior cardinals were at his bedside although reports that the Pope had slipped into a coma were dismissed by the Vatican as "rubbish".

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. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said the Pope was "meeting his last hours" very bravely. He said John Paul was "serene and calm... and for all that we give thanks to God".

He said the Pope will stay at the Vatican "to the end".

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. He participated in the collapse of communism, took an often controversial stance on birth control and abortion and more recently fiercely criticised 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".

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. …

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