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Pope makes it clear once more he won't retire

During an emotional four-day visit to his Polish homeland that ended on Monday, the 82-year-old Pope John Paul II made clear he was well aware of his poor health but that talk of resignation was out of the question - at least for the time being.

"Obtain also for me strength in body and spirit that I may carry out to the end the mission given to me by the risen Lord," John Paul said during a stop on Monday in a mountain sanctuary outside Krakow where he used to pray with his father.

The Holy Father's remarks were directed in part at the crescendo of voices suggesting - some hoping - that he might take advantage of Church law and step down because of poor health.

Meanwhile papal trips to the Philippines and Croatia are being considered for next year, though the Vatican isn't confirming anything yet.

One proposal calls for John Paul II to visit Manila in January, for World Family Day. A visit to Zagreb has also been considered by the Holy Father, for the beatification of two Croatians.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls told journalists in Poland at the weekend: "Manila's invitation exists, and it is known that the Pope wishes to go."

But nothing has been decided yet, the spokesman said. The program is open "both for the case of the Philippines as well as the trip that he should make in the spring to Croatia," Navarro-Valls added.

Pope strikes deep chord with Poles (BBC)
Apostolic Voyage to Poland, 16 - 19 August 2002
4th World Meeting of Families (official site)

Miami Herald-AP/Zenit

21 Aug 2002