VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II’s closest aide has downplayed concerns about the pontiff’s health, but an Austrian cardinal said the Pope is approaching “the last days and months of his life”.
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn told Austrian state radio ORF on October 2 that “the entire world is experiencing a Pope who is sick, who is disabled, and who is dying – I don’t know how near death he is – who is approaching the last days and months of his life”.
The cardinal’s spokesman later said his remarks were intended “philosophically”.
At the Vatican the same day, Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s longtime personal secretary, told reporters jokingly that many journalists who have predicted the Pope’s demise “are already in heaven’.
His remarks came after a new round of dire media speculation on the Pope’s condition.
No one at the Vatican has tried to hide the 83 year-old pontiff’s increasing frailty and weakness in recent weeks. He is unable to stand or walk, and in several public appearances has had difficulty speaking.
But chatting with reporters as the Pope met with Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas in an adjacent room, Archbishop Dziwisz did not seem overly concerned about the Pope’s health.