Papal Trip Background: John Paul Faces Health Restrictions

ROME, May 22, 02 ( - The 96th foreign trip of this pontificate, which will bring Pope John Paul II to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria on May 22- 26, will be a new test of the aging Pope's health.

Pope John Paul celebrated his 82nd birthday on Saturday, May 18, and his advancing age, along with the effects of Parkinson's disease, have severely limited his mobility. Organizers of the Pope's trips have gradually scaled back the number of events the Pontiff tackles at each stop on his voyages, and arranged shorter trips, whenever possible, to cut down on the burden of travel. New devices have been employed to help him function, such as a rolling platform on which he can stand, and an electric hoist that allows him to avoid stairs.

Nevertheless, the Pope will celebrate Mass in public on several occasions during his trip. And he will also make several important symbolic gestures: the crowning of an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Bulgaria; the blessing of a statue of Blessed John XXIII in Sofia (where the former Pope once served as papal nuncio); the laying of floral wreaths at monuments commemorating the fallen heroes of both the countries he visits.

The health of John Paul II has been a topic of concern since the mid- 1990s, when the symptoms of Parkinson's disease first became evident. More recently, a severe attack of arthritis forced the Pope to cancel several public appearances just before Easter. But the Pope has continued to meet an ambitious schedule, including regular travel in Italy and abroad, only gradually making concessions to his physical decline.

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22. mai 2002

av Webmaster publisert 23.05.2002, sist endret 23.05.2002 - 00:36