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Pope turns 84

Pope John Paul marked his 84th birthday yesterday with a cake baked by his cook, Sister Germana, and the Italian publication of a new autobiography.

The 200-page book, Get Up and Let Us Go (pictured), follows his journey from new Bishop of Krakow to being elected as Pope. It contains intimate reflections on the Holy Father's faith and details his experiences in Communist-era Poland.

Despite deteriorating health the Pope maintains a gruelling schedule of appearances and foreign trips. Vatican officials said the Pope's best birthday present would be a visit to the Swiss capital Bern at the beginning of June, when he will meet thousands of young Roman Catholics.

John Paul II is renowned for his record-breaking number of trips abroad, but it will be the first time he has gone outside of Italy since he visited Slovakia in September.

During that trip the Pope appeared weak and was unable to deliver his speeches himself, sparking speculation that he was nearing death.

However, just a month later he was able to take part in silver jubilee celebrations to mark his 25th year as head of the Roman Catholic Church and since then has much recovered.

Although confined to a wheelchair and suffering from the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, he appeared well on Sunday as he canonised six new saints at a service in St Peter's Square attended by thousands.

The Pope's new book, which will be translated into several languages, is a sequel to Gift and Mystery, an account of his early years in the priesthood, which was released in 1996.

Pope celebrates his 84th birthday (BBC 18/5/04)

Pope celebrates 84th birthday (The Advertiser 18/5/04)
Pope Jean Paul II turns 84 (Sydney Morning Herald/AFP 18/5/04)
Should Bush Ask Pope's Pardon for Iraq War? (Reuters 17/5/04)
Pope Marks Birthday With Launch of Book (The Guardian/Associated Press 18/5/04)
John Paul II celebrates 84th birthday (Missionary Service News Agency 18/5/04)
Pope Highlights a Devotion Shared by Newly Canonized Saints (Zenit 17/5/04)
Pope Hopes Olympics Signal Peace (Zenit 17/5/04)
Pope Laments "Unacceptable Violence" in Mideast (Zenit 17/5/04)
Pope's New Book a Call to Optimism (Zenit 17/5/04)
Russian orthodox church abroad wouldn't welcome Pope's visit (Interfax 18/5/04)
Swiss bishops denounce calls for Pope to retire ( 18/5/04)
Messages pour in for the Pope's birthday (IOL South Africa/AFP 18/4/04)
Pope Suggests He May Have Been Too Lenient with Dissenters (Lifesite 17/5/04)
Happy Birthday Holy Father (Independent Catholic News 18/5/04)
Pope's birthday marked with launch of his latest book (Independent Catholic News 18/5/04)
Pope John Paul II Marks 84th Birthday (Associated Press/ 18/5/04)
Pope Feels Reign Has Been Too Soft (Reuters/New York Post 17/5/04)
In new book, pope says his experience in Poland shaped his papacy (Catholic News Service 18/5/04)
In new book, pope wonders if he has been strict enough as a leader
Send birthday greetings to Pope John Paul II (Catholic World News 18/5/04)
Happy Birthday, Your Holiness! ( 18/5/04)
Happy birthday, Holy Father ! (Vatican Information Service 18/5/04)
The Holy Father

19 May 2004