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Pope feels the heat during weekly general audience

Pope John Paul II appeared fatigued by Italy's scorching heatwave during his weekly general audience on Wednesday in the courtyard of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

Observers said the Holy Father, who is 83 and suffers from Parkinson's disease, appeared tired and listless in the heat of the courtyard, which was packed with pilgrims.

Many of the pilgrims used fans to give themselves some air.

The pope spends several weeks every summer in his hillside getaway nestled in the relatively cool hills overlooking Rome. Last Sunday, he prayed for "the Lord to give the parched earth a bit of cool rain".

The pope greeted players from Portugal's Benfica football team, in Rome to play a Champions League qualifier against Lazio, and received a football from the former star Eusebio.

Concern for the Pope has been prompted by the number of heat-related deaths affecting elderly people across Europe. In Italy alone, official figures put the death toll of elderly from the heatwave at 60, mostly in the northern cities of Milan and Turin.

However, many of the heat-afflicted have been alone and neglected, which cannot be said to be the case of the pope, who is surrounded by aides and medical staff.


General Audience of John Paul II, Castelgandolfo, Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Middle East: Pope, blessed are those who love Jerusalem (AGI)
Pope urges prayers for rain (12/8/03)

15 Aug 2003