Pope John Paul II: Health Problems

Series Health Problems

As the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius IX in 1846, John Paul II entered the papacy as an exceptionally healthy, relatively young man who, unlike previous popes, hiked, swam and skiied. However, after over twenty-five years on the papal throne, two assassination attempts, the first of which seriously injured him, and a number of cancer scares, John Paul's physical health has declined. He had a tumour removed from his colon in 1992, dislocated his shoulder in 1993, broke his femur in 1994, and had his appendix removed in 1996.

An orthopaedic surgeon confirmed in 2001 that Pope John Paul II was suffering from Parkinson's disease, as international observers had suspected for some time. This was confirmed by the Vatican in 2003. He has difficulty speaking more than a few sentences at a time and has difficulty hearing as well. He also has severe arthritis in his right knee, which he developed following a hip replacement, thus he rarely walks in public. Nevertheless, he has continued to tour the world. He has indicated that he accepts God's Will that he be Pope, and thus he is determined to remain in office until his death or until he becomes irrevocably mentally impaired. Those who have met him say that, though physically in poor shape, he remains mentally in full health.

Recent Health Problems

In September 2003, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who is often considered the Pope's "right hand", said that "we should pray for the Pope", raising serious concerns over the Popes health condition.

On February 1, 2005, the pope was taken to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome suffering from acute inflammation of the larynx and laryngo-spasm, brought on by a bout of influenza. The Vatican reported the following day that his condition had stabilized, but he would remain in the hospital until fully recovered. The pope appeared in public on 6 February to deliver the final lines of the Angelus blessing in a hoarse voice from the window of his hospital room. He missed the Ash Wednesday ceremonies in St Peter's on 9 February for the first time in his 26-year papacy, and returned to the Vatican on 10 February.

On 24 February 2005 the Pope began having trouble breathing and also had a fever, and he was rushed back to the Gemelli Hospital, where a tracheotomy was successfully performed. An aide to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that John Paul was "serene" after waking up following the surgery. He raised his hand and attempted to say something, but his doctors advised him not to try speaking. The Pope gave 'silent blessings' from his hospital window on Sunday 27 February and Sunday 6 March, and is said to have spoken in German and Italian during a working meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger in his 10th floor suite of the Gemelli on Tuesday 1 March. Cardinal Ratzinger told international press: "the Pope spoke to me in German and Italian. He was completely lucid. I brought the Holy Father greetings from the plenary of the Congregation for the divine cult which is meeting at this moment in the Vatican. The Holy Father will be working on material which I gave him today. I am happy to see him fully lucid and mentally capable of saying the essential matters with his own voice. We usually speak in German. The details are unimportant - he spoke of essential matters."

On 8 March, it was announced that the Pope was scheduled to give his Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday, 27 March. The other ceremonies of the Easter Triduum were to be led by cardinals.

During the Angelus of Sunday 13 March The Pope was able to speak to pilgrims for the first time since he was readmitted to hospital. Later that day he returned to the Vatican for the first time in nearly a month. On Palm Sunday (20th March) the Pope made a brief appearance at his window to greet pilgrims. He was cheered by thousands of the faithful as he silently waved an olive branch. It was the first time in his pontificate that he could not officiate at Palm Sunday Mass. He watched it on his TV in his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square.

On 22 March, there were renewed concerns for the Pope's health after reports stated that he had taken a turn for the worse and was not responding to medication. Some are suggesting the Pope may have to be readmitted to hospital.

On 24 March, Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo performed the rite of the washing of the feet, in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica. The cardinal stood in for Pope John Paul II at a Holy Thursday ceremony at the Vatican. He said the ailing Pontiff was 'serenely abandoning' himself to God's will. The 84-year-old Pope, whose health is precarious following throat surgery last month, watched the service on television from his Vatican apartments.

On 27 March, Easter day, the Pope appeared at his window in the Vatican for a short time. Angelo Cardinal Sodano read the Urbi et orbi message while the Pope blessed the people with his own hand. He tried to speak but he could not.

On 31 March, the Pope developed a "very high fever caused by a urinary tract infection," but was not rushed to hospital, apparently in accordance with his stated wishes to die in the Vatican. Later that day, Vatican sources announced that the Pope had been given the Anointing of the Sick of the Roman Catholic Church, the first time that pope had received the sacrament since the 1981 assassination attempt on his life. It is unclear if the Pope received the Apostolic Pardon as well.

On 1 April, the Pope had been fitted with a second feeding tube in his nose to help boost his nutritional intake as a result of his fever. Reports out of the Vatican early that morning reported that the Pope had suffered a heart attack, but remained awake. Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls denied the reports of the heart attack, but said the Pope had suffered a "cardiocirculatory collapse" and called the Pope's condition "very serious."

At 1:41am EST (6:41 GMT) the Vatican issued a press release stating Pope John Paul II had suffered a stroke and was in critical condition.

At around 10.30 GMT (03:30 EST) a Vatican spokesman gave a further briefing on the Pope's health, he confirmed that the Pope has had the Last Rites.

The latest update at approximately 17.00 GMT by Italian news sources claim that Pope John Paul II has lost consciousness.

It now seems very likely that there will be a Papal Election in 2005.

This latest health crisis has renewed speculation about John Paul II retiring from office. In the past the Pope has said that he would not leave office, and that he would continue to serve as Pope until he died. Many who knew the Pope personally or have observed him for some time have said that he still would not retire. The Pope's current stand of 'serenely abandoning' himself to God's will means it is not likely he will retire from office.

Source: http://www.wikipedia.org contributed to this report

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