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Specialists see pope's illness worsening

Neurology specialists say the extreme rigidity in his face indicates troubles with breathing and swallowing, which can lead to fatal infection.

For more than a decade, Pope John Paul II has suffered through Parkinson's disease in the international spotlight, his hands trembling, his once-stout posture slumped, his sermons slurred, as the neurological disorder slowly entraps his body. Now, as he celebrates 25 years as pontiff in Rome this week, concerns are intensifying that the disease may soon kill him.

Vatican sources are admitting to grave concerns about the health of Pope John Paul II, even as they insist that media reports are exaggerating the problem. No new plans are being made for major public ceremonies or papal trips outside the Vatican.

Catholic World News reports that as the Pope begins a week of intense activity, with a series of highly visible public ceremonies surrounding his 25th anniversary celebration, the beatification of Mother Teresa, and a consistory, a close associate has confided that doctors are worried about the Pope's health.

The associate, speaking to the Vatican news service I Media under condition of anonymity, revealed: "We have decided to suspend all major projects, such as trips, until next spring."

He even questioned whether the Holy Father would preside at public ceremonies that have already been scheduled for later this year. "It is more reasonable to wait at least until the end of the celebrations in these next days before we decide anything," he said.

A report in yesterday's Boston Globe suggests that even if the pope lives for years more, his severe physical decline is likely to continue. His ability to speak, write, walk, and stand - in other words, to communicate with the world's Catholics - will become more limited by the year. Dementia also looms.

But the pope's very public deterioration occurs as researchers are increasingly hopeful about treatment for the millions of people who suffer from Parkinson's disease, which kills off brain cells that control bodily movement. Although the breakthroughs will probably come too late for John Paul II, researchers say the coming decade seems filled with promise for patients.

Boston Globe

Vatican officials concede fears on Pope's health
As Pope's Health Declines, His Inner Circle Tightens (New York Times)
Pope gives no hint of resigning, cardinals say (NewsObserver/AP)
Pope's globetrotting days may be over-medics (Reuters)
Meek and mighty hail old pope (Reuters)
Pope's Speech Is Failing (CBS)
Pope still able to do mission: cardinals (Canoe/AP)
Cardinal Laghi says pope has no intention of resigning (Catholic World News)

The Parkinson's Web

16 Oct 2003