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Pope Upbeat About ‘Twilight’ Years

October 26, 1999

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ In a letter addressed to ``my elderly brothers and sisters,″ Pope John Paul II gave an upbeat assessment Tuesday of his own life in the ``twilight″ of his years.

At the same time, the 79-year-old pope offered hope through faith in an afterlife, saying ``I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me _ from life to life.″

The letter, written to coincide with the U.N. year of the elderly, is a ``very personal″ message by the pope, said his spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

``Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life,″ John Paul said. ``It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God.″

A robust 58-year-old cardinal when he assumed the papacy, John Paul has been slowed in recent years by a series of ailments that may include Parkinson’s. He just began his 21st year as leader of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics.

``As an older person myself, I have felt the desire to engage in a conversation with you,″ the pope wrote, encouraging the elderly to live their lives to the fullest.

The elderly should not be relegated to the fringes of society, John Paul said. He also condemned the practice of euthanasia.

The pope said church law allows the rejection of extraordinary medical means to keep a patient alive, but views euthanasia as different.

``Regardless of intentions and circumstances, euthanasia is always an intrinsically evil act, a violation of God’s law and an offense against the dignity of the human person.″

The 35-page letter touched on themes the pope has spoken about increasingly.

``The line separating life and death runs through our communities and moves inexorably nearer to each of us. If life is a pilgrimage toward our heavenly home, then old age is the most natural time to look toward the threshold of eternity,″ the pope wrote.

Monsignor Stanislaw Rylko, a Polish official at the Vatican, said the pope’s letter ``emphasizes the value of life in every season.″

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