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Pope cancels audience due to intestinal problem

Pope John Paul took the rare step of canceling his weekly general audience yestrday in the face of growing concern over his health, but the Vatican insisted that only a "minor" intestinal problem was to blame.

The 83-year-old pope has put off his general audiences at short notice only a handful of times during his papacy of nearly 25 years.

"The Holy Father, following an intestinal indisposition which arose yesterday afternoon, will not be present at today's general audience on the advice of his personal doctor," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a brief statement.

He gave no further details about the ailment. A second statement said the absence was due to "a minor indisposition."

The pope's top aide, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, presided at the audience and read the pope's prepared address to pilgrims who had come to see the pontiff.

Sodano asked the crowd to pray for the pope's "speedy recovery." He told them the pope was watching the audience on television and would later deliver the final blessing to them via an audio link with the residence where he is resting.

The pope was to have returned from the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to address thousands of people at the Vatican.

The statements confirmed what sources had told Reuters during the night. The two sources said the problem was not serious but the pope's doctor had advised him to rest.

The pope appeared in good overall condition at his last televised appearance on Sunday and held private audiences at the summer residence on Monday and Tuesday.

One source said the pope still planned to move back to the Vatican from the summer residence on Friday afternoon and, health permitting, preside at a Vatican ceremony on Saturday.


Frail Pope calls off Vatican audience (Ananova)
Sick pope cancels weekly audience (CNN)
Illness forces Pope to cancel public audience (Catholic World News)
Pope unwell, but greets pilgrims by radio (Independent Catholic News)
Fresh Concerns as Ailing Pope Faces Hectic Schedule (The Scotsman)
Pope suffering 'intestinal problems' (AP)
Chronology of the Pope's health (Reuters)
Pope alters succession rules (Detroit News/Scripps Howard)

25 Sep 2003