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Pope makes clear he intends to stay

Yesterday, three days before his 82nd birthday, the increasingly frail Pope John Paul II made it clear he has no intention of stepping down.

The Holy Father, who suffers from the sympton's of Parkinson's disease and knee and hip ailments, received birthday greetings from pilgrims during his general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I count on your spiritual support to continue faithfully in the ministry that the Lord entrusted to me," John Paul responded.

Vatican officials have frequently said that John Paul, now in the 24th year of his papacy, is not considering resignation. Church law allows a pope to resign but there is no provision to force him from office.

John Paul marks his birthday on Saturday, four days before departing on a five-day trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.


16 May 2002