Dying John Paul II prayed to 'go to the house of the Father'

Pope John Paul II's last words before his death were "Let me go to the house of the Father," according to the Vatican's official account of his final hours.

Catholic News Service reports that the then Holy Father murmured the phrase in Polish "with a very weak voice and mumbled words" to those gathered at his bedside six hours before he died on 2 April.

The detailed chronology was contained in a special 223-page supplement to the "Acta Apostolica Sedis," the official record of Vatican documents and acts, released yesterday.

Most of the account deals with previously published information about the pope's deteriorating medical condition, the actions taken at his death, the arrangements for his funeral and his final testament.

The volume also contained more than 150 pages of condolence messages and testimonials that arrived from political and religious leaders around the world.

In recounting the pope's final days and hours, the chronology described the pontiff's poignant appearance on Easter Sunday, when he was recovering from a tracheotomy to relieve breathing problems.

"The pope tried to read the words of the apostolic blessing without success and, in silence, with the right hand he blessed the city and the world," it said.

At his last public appearance at his apartment window on 30 March, he gave a blessing but was unable to speak to a "stunned and sorrowful" crowd in St. Peter's Square, it said.

"This was the last public 'station' of his painful Via Crucis," it said.

The next day, 31 March, the pope had a crisis: He was stricken by a "violent shaking chill" as he was being taken to Mass at 11 a.m., the chronology said. His temperature quickly rose to more than 103 degrees, and he went into septic shock with cardiocirculatory collapse, caused by a urinary infection.

The Vatican promptly took steps to arrange "all the necessary therapeutic steps and cardiorespiratory assistance," it said. The chronology said church officials respected the pope's "explicit desire" to remain in his residence and not be taken to the hospital, underlining that sufficient medical facilities had been set up in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

The condolences and testimonials published in the volume were written messages received by the College of Cardinals, the Vatican Secretariat of State or the papal chamberlain. There were messages from representatives of 162 countries, including many world leaders. Others expressing admiration for the late pope included Cuba's Fidel Castro, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

Before his death, pope prayed to 'go to the house of the Father' (Catholic News Service 19/9/05)

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20 Sep 2005