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Ratzinger secretary downplays latest Pope health alarm

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has asked Catholics to pray for Pope John Paul II, not out of any new sense of alarm but because the Holy Father continues to struggle with infirmity, the cardinal's personal secretary has said.

Media reports this morning are using Ratzinger's words 'the Pope is in really bad shape' to characterise the Holy Father's continuing struggles with his health. The bringing forward of the naming of the new cardinals has intensified speculation that the Pope might not have long to live, and is intent to put in place his preferred electors for his successor before he goes.

Cardinal Ratzinger's secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, downplayed a report by the German magazine Bunte, which quoted Ratzinger as saying in an interview: "(The pope) is in a bad way," and "We should pray for the pope."

Monsignor Ganswein told Catholic News Service that Ratzinger told representatives of two German beer companies early last week that the Pope could not grant them a private audience because he's "in a bad way". Journalists in the group picked up the comments.

As for the pope's health, Monsignor Ganswein said, Cardinal Ratzinger was "more or less expressing what anyone can see with their eyes and hear with their ears, that the pope is not well and speaks only with difficulty."

"All this was not said in any manner that could give a sense of alarm. Not at all," the cardinal's secretary said. "To present this as a piece of news is a complete exaggeration."

Catholic News Service

Pope 'has made his last trip abroad'
'The pope is in really bad shape'
Pope 'in a bad way'
Remarks heighten concern on pope's health (AP)
Adviser: Pope In Poor Health (AP)
Pope John Paul II in Very Poor Health, says Cardinal (Voice of America)
German cardinal says Pope "in very bad way" (Reuters)
Ratzinger says Pope's health 'very poor,' urges prayers (Catholic World News)
Ratzinger says Pope's health 'very poor,' urges prayers (Catholic World News)
Pope's weakness remains talking point (30/9/03)
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)

31 Oct 2003