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Pope's weakness remains talking point

Pope John Paul II, whose physical health has become a topic of steady discussion around the Vatican, appeared very infirm during a brief public appearance on Sunday.

The Holy Father spoke to pilgrims in St Peter's Square from the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, leading the Angelus prayer and then announcing his decision to bring 31 new members into the College of Cardinals.

The Pope was able to use a public address system, despite an electrical blackout that had nearly paralysed Rome, because the Vatican has its own generators. However, he had obvious trouble breathing as he spoke, and was forced to pause several times as he read his announcement.

On Saturday, when he met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, he remained seated until the moment when President Macapagal-Arroyo was formally introduced, then rose briefly with the help of two aides to greet her before taking his seat again.

The Pope reportedly spoke very little during his private talk with Macapagal-Arroyo, which took place in the library of the apostolic palace. He did speak at all during the traditional photo session with his guests, except to greet the members of the delegation from the Philippines by name.

Catholic World News

Pope cancels audience due to intestinal problem (25/9/03)
Chronology of the Pope's health (Reuters)
Pope's looks stronger at Wednesday audience (18/9/03)
Will John Paul II Still Travel? It's Up to Him, Says Aide (Zenit)
Pope's struggles make some wonder if Slovak trip was his last (Catholic News Service 15/9/03)

30 Sep 2003