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Pope presides at weekly audience

Pope John Paul II presided at his weekly general audience yesterday before tens of thousands of pilgrims who packed St Peter's Square to pay tribute to him ahead of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

The ailing 83 year old appeared in relatively good form, but while his voice was strong he had difficulty at times in uttering his words.

The audience came a day before celebrations planned to mark his election as pontiff on 16 October 1978. Cardinals and bishops from around the world and official delegations from many countries will attend a Mass in St. Peter's Square at 6:00 p.m. tonight (2:00 am Friday Sydney time), about the same hour then-Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

In St Peter's Square yesterday Polish pilgrims waved red and white flags and sang Polish songs.

"I thank you from my heart for being here today and during all these 25 years," the pope told his countrymen in Polish. "I am happy I can count on your spiritual support."

Later, in Italian, he invited Romans and pilgrims to join him at today's anniversary Mass "to praise the Lord and thank him for this happy event."

The pope's speaking problems were evident Wednesday as they have been for some months. John Paul gave greetings in various languages, leaving it to aides to read most of his remarks.


General Audience of John Paul II, Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Pope says at Angelus (Fides)
Pope, at audience, thanks the faithful for prayers (EWTN/Catholic World News)
Pontiff Presides at General Audience (The Guardian/AP)
John Paul at Wednesday's weekly audience (CNN)

16 Oct 2003