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Ailing Pope delays Croatia visit

Pope John Paul II has postponed a third visit to Croatia until spring 2003. The visit had been tentatively planned for September.

The Holy Father recently returned from a five-day trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. The Vatican has suggested that future trips might have to be curtailed because of his poor health.

John Paul's hands tremble and his speech is slurred, symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and he walks with difficulty.

During his September visit, the pope had intended to beatify Croatian Catholic laymen Ivan Merz and Ivana Petkovic.

In 1998, on his last visit to Croatia, the pope beatified Croatia's controversial World War II-era Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. John Paul made his first visit in 1994 to Croatia, where about 80% of the nation's 4.7 million people are Catholics.


4 Jun 2002