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Pope quashes resignation rumours

The Pope has used a front-page article in an Italian newspaper to deny rumours that his deteriorating health may force him to resign.

The article, authorised by the Pope, in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, rules out retirement: "It is now definitive: his service to the church will continue for as long as God wishes, there will be no recourse to canon 332, which allows for 'the Supreme Pontiff's renunciation of his office'."

The declaration on Saturday came as a decline in the Pope's health raised doubts about his ability to fulfil a tough program of travel to Canada and central America. Advancing Parkinson's disease causes his right arm to tremble constantly and paralyses the muscles in his face, slurring his speech. Doctors say the drugs used to treat the disease lose their effectiveness after six or seven years, raising new concerns about the Pope's capacity to continue as head of the Church.

Reformist church officials began speaking two years ago of the possibility of the Pope voluntarily renouncing his office, but speculation intensified in May when two conservative cardinals publicly discussed the Pope's incapacity.

The Pope's response came through the pen of Vittorio Messori, a Catholic journalist and author of a book-length interview with John Paul called "Crossing the Threshhold of Hope."

Mr Messori summarised the Pope's position in the Corriere della Sera article: "The strength to continue is not my problem but that of Christ, who called me, despite my unworthiness, to be his Vicar on earth. In his mysterious design He brought me here and He will decide my destiny."

The journalist contrasted the Pope's position with that of the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who has resigned to enjoy his family, garden and travel. For the Pope this approach does not apply, Mr Messori wrote, and John Paul is not free, despite canon 332, to set aside his cross.

Il Papa, scelta definitiva: «Non lasceṛ mai» (Corriere della Sera)
Pope tells how prayers help him (The Advertiser)


2 Jul 2002