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.
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Send birthday greetings to Pope John Paul II (Catholic World News 18/5/04)
Happy Birthday, Your Holiness! (AsiaNews.it 18/5/04)
Happy birthday, Holy Father ! (Vatican Information Service 18/5/04)
The Holy Father
19 May 2004