The official Vatican newspaper 'L'Osservatore Romano' has called on the press to end rumours and conjectures on the state of the Pope's health.
    Since the Italian ANSA news agency quoted a statement of German Bishops' Conference President Bishop Karl Lehman apparently calling for the Pope's resignation, Italian papers have been running stories on the state of his health. L'Osservatore Romano claims that the agency mis-translated Cardinal Lehman's statement.
    It argues that the decision to resign belongs strictly to the Pope himself. It claims that the fact that the Pope is frail does not mean he is unable to do his work, as the Italian press is suggesting.
    This is the first time "L'Osservatore Romano" has taken such a clear position on the debate. "Physical weakness does not mean incapacity or an 'irreversible' and impossible condition. These are distinctions that must be made for clarity of thought and ... to defend papal liberty; moreover, it is better not to formulate suppositions (fortune telling) on who should certify the condition of permanent reduction (another concept that must be clarified) in the ability to communicate," the article states.
    Zenit (available soon) 1:28am 3/2/00

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