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Vatican spokesman scotches papal retirement rumours

The Vatican confirmed yesterday that Pope John Paul II's travel plans include a return to Rome from Poland next week, contrary to a published report that the Holy Father might retire to his native land after the pilgrimage.

The French newspaper Le Journal de Dimanche reported on Sunday that the 82-year-old pope might retire to a villa in his beloved Tatra mountains in southern Poland instead of returning to Rome at the conclusion of his 16-19 August trip to Poland.

But Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the official trip schedule has the pope flying back to Rome next Monday after a speech at Krakow airport in Poland.

Navarro-Valls also said yesterday he preferred not to respond to a German newspaper report that the pope's Poland trip would be his last foreign visit. The tabloid Bild am Sonntag quoted unidentified cardinals for its Sunday report.

John Paul II, who repeatedly has said that - "God willing" - he will continue to serve in the papacy, told young people in Canada last month that he planned to visit Croatia.

"If every time someone asks me if this will be the pope's last trip, I would be forced to say: 'How do I know if this will be his last?'" Navarro-Valls said, adding that the pope's remarks about Croatia were "more authoritative" than what he himself could say.

Last spring, church sources in Croatia said the pope would visit in spring 2003. Poland is, however, the last foreign trip being planned for this year, Navarro-Valls said. During the pope's trip to Canada for the World Youth Day celebration, Navarro-Valls said the pope might visit the Philippines in January.

Poles set to welcome their Pope (The Universe)


13 Aug 2002