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Pope's fatigue 'part of his legacy'

The fatigue which Pope John Paul II shows during his papal voyages "will remain in the heritage of the Church" as an example for future pontiffs, the Vatican's chief spokesman has suggested.

Catholic World News reports that Vatican Press Office head Joaquin Navarro-Valls made his comment to reporters as the Holy Father was concluding his latest trip, in Malta.

Responding to media questions about the Pope's condition, Navarro-Valls acknowledged that the Pope was exhausted.

He said: "The Pope does not hide it, and we all know about it, and see it."

However, the papal spokesman continued, John Paul's example tells the world that "this blessed fatigue is worth it."

This, Navarro-Valls observed, is part of the legacy of this papacy. Future popes, the said, would recall the witness of John Paul II and the implicit message that, despite the pain and fatigue he suffered, "they will see how much God allowed him to accomplish."

Navarro-Valls also disclosed that he had asked Pope John Paul II whether he had been surprised by a message from the Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, who thanked him for his visit to Greece and promised his prayers in support of the remainder of the papal trip. The Pope replied that he had not expected such a gesture, but that it was a gift from Providence.

Meanwhile one of the Holy Father's physicians said that Pope John Paul II "is a healthy man".

Dr Pier Paolo Visentin, who is responsible for health emergencies in the Vatican, told the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera that the Pope is as tired as any person of his age who is subject to physical and emotional stress. Visentin admitted the Pope's tremor, which he said is due to a "neurological problem". But aside from this, he said "he is a healthy man, who has never suffered serious illnesses".