Pope's improved health aids celebration of 83rd birthday
Pope John Paul II is celebrating his 83rd birthday at a canonisation Mass in a packed St Peter's Square at the weekend.
He received birthday greetings in Latin from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and loud applause from the crowd of tens of thousands when he arrived for the service.
The Holy Father sat in hydraulic chair that allows him to celebrate Mass while seated. He suffers from crippling knee and hip conditions.
A top Vatican official has acknowledged what many observers have long suspected - that John Paul also suffers from Parkinson's disease.
The Vatican has never officially acknowledged the source of the pope's trembling hands and slurred speech, typical symptoms of the degenerative neurological disorder.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, said in a newspaper interview that prayer allows the pope to cope with the disease.
Two Poles and two Italians - all founders of religious orders - were canonised. John Paul has already proclaimed 469 saints, making him the greatest saint- maker in the Church's history.
John Paul recently became the fourth longest-serving pope in history. A visit to Croatia next month will be his 100th foreign tour, while the Church is preparing to mark the 25th anniversary of his pontificate on 16 October.
Text of homily 18/5/03 (Italian)
Pope celebrates birthday (SkyNews)
'Young' Pope marks birthday (Financial Times)
Wojtyla thanks Berlusconi for his present (AGI)
Pope celebrates 83rd birthday (BBC)
Celebrations for Pope's birthday (Independent Catholic News)
Pope's 83rd Birthday, Beatifications, Bring Polish (Catholic World News)
Pope Will Canonize Ursula Ledochowska on Sunday (Zenit)
John Paul II to Canonize Four Saints on His Birthday (Zenit)
Pope Creates Four Saints on His 83rd Birthday (Reuters)
Pope turns 83 (News24)
Vatican Confirms Pope Has Parkinson's (AP)
19 May 2003