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Vatican says future trips to include more papal rest

Pope John Paul II began his 11-day, 22,000 km trip to the Americas by triumphantly walking down a set of aeroplane steps in Toronto, sign that he might be old and frail, but should not be counted out.

By the time he reached his final stop in Mexico City at the end of July, he was slurring his words and slumping in his chair as if his energy had simply run out.

Along the way, Vatican officials said they were learning a lesson: Any future papal trips should include plenty of down time for the 82-year-old pontiff, who suffers from a degenerative nervous system disorder, arthritis and the cumulative strain of several operations.

In Toronto, the pope spent most of his first four days relaxing at a secluded island retreat on a lake in Ontario. It was the longest papal break ever scheduled on a foreign trip, and it seemed to pay big dividends.

When it came time to preside over the lengthy World Youth Day events, the pope looked and sounded better than he had in many months. He spoke English and French in a voice that resonated and was understood. Even his face seemed more expressive.

He even joked to youths that being 82 was not like being 22 - an impromptu display of humor that aides saw as another good sign.

But the second half of his trip included three major liturgies in Guatemala and Mexico, along with arrival and departure ceremonies and long motorcade rides. He seemed worn out by the time he landed in Mexico on Tuesday and needed help getting to his feet when a band started playing the national anthem.


5 Aug 2002