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Pope has audience, but saves strength

The Pope held his weekly general audience yesterday but skipped reading much of his prepared address, apparently to conserve his strength.

The 83-year-old Pope, who has difficulty speaking because of Parkinson's disease, significantly shortened his main, two-page address in Italian.

But later, speaking slowly, he continued brief comments in other languages. He offered special greetings to English-speaking visitors, mentioning a number of countries including Australia.

At one point while he was reading in Italian, a clear look of frustration came over his face and he stopped briefly. The crowd broke into applause to cheer him on and he continued the audience for thousands of people in St Peter's Square.

The Pope had to miss last week's general audience because of an intestinal disorder, but the Vatican says he will honour his numerous engagements for this month, which revolve around the 25th anniversary of his election on 16 October.

Concern over the Holy Father's health has grown in recent weeks and one of his closest advisers was quoted in a magazine as saying the Pope's frail health has left him "in a bad way". But the Vatican insists the ailing pontiff is forging ahead with a heavy schedule of public appearances and travel.

On Tuesday, Vatican Radio Program Director Fr Federico Lombardi SJ said there were no new developments about the pontiff's health.

"The Pope is so very exposed to the view of everyone that each one of us can form his own opinion," he said. "I don't think that Cardinal Ratzinger has confidential or secret news to tell about the state of his health. As Christians we can pray for him and watch how the situation evolves."

The Age/AFP
General Audience Of John Paul II, Wednesday, 1 October 2003

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2 Oct 2003