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Vatican Says Pope in Grave Condition

April 1, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II was conscious but in grave condition Friday after suffering heart failure during treatment for a urinary tract infection, his weeping spokesman said.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope, who is being treated at the Vatican, was ``informed of the gravity of his situation″ and decided to remain in his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

John Paul, 84, participated in Mass and received some top aides Friday morning, Navarro-Valls said.

``The pope is still lucid, fully conscious and extraordinarily serene,″ Navarro-Valls said. He said the pope remained in ``very serious″ condition with unstable blood pressure.

John Paul asked aides to read him the biblical passage describing the final stage of the Way of the Cross, the path that Christ took to his crucifixion, Navarro-Valls said. In that stage, according to the Bible, Christ’s body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in his tomb.

Navarro-Valls said the pope followed attentively and made the sign of the cross.

``This is surely an image I have never seen in these 26 years,″ Navarro-Valls said. Choking up, he walked out of the room.

The pope suffered heart failure during treatment for a urinary tract infection on Thursday, the Vatican said earlier Friday, but it denied an Italian news report that he was in a coma.

John Paul’s health declined sharply Thursday, when he developed a high fever brought on by the infection. The pope’s wish to remain in his apartment at the Vatican and not be taken to the hospital was respected, Navarro-Valls said.

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