World Catholics united in prayer for the Holy Father

 Catholics around the UK and Ireland have been united with people around the world in prayers for Pope John Paul II today. In London Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said: "We are all thinking and praying for the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, at this time. As far as we can tell, he is approaching the last days or hours of his long pontificate. It is not only my prayers and those of Catholics which are being offered, but those of fellow Christians and countless others who have grown to respect and admire this man, who has been in so many ways a witness and extraordinarily important moral voice for the world." The Cardinal will be saying Mass at 5.30pm at the Cathedral, whatever the news during the day. The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, said: "Having heard the sad news of the deterioration of the state of the Holy Father's health, I ask Catholics to continue to pray fervently for Pope John Paul II, that he may be united ever more closely with Jesus in his suffering and be given all the graces that he needs at this time. "I know that throughout Ireland today, people will be remembering the Holy Father in their prayers." Dr Sean Brady is Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and President of the Irish Bishops' Conference. Pope John Paul II visited Ireland on 29th, 30th September and 1st October 1979. Ireland was the third pilgrimage of his Pontificate. Audio links to the Pope's 1979 homilies and speeches in Ireland, are available on: in the "Special Features Archive". Commenting this morning on the Pope's worsening health, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland said: "It is with increasing concern that I have followed news reports from Rome concerning the health of the Holy Father. Clearly, his very poor health is a cause of great concern to those in the Catholic community and many others besides." "I am sure that all people of goodwill will join me in praying for the Pope's health at this time. I extend my warmest thanks to all those from other churches and faiths who have made contact to offer prayers and good wishes, their kindness is greatly valued." "Catholics in Scotland and around the world continue to be inspired by Pope John Paul II as he manages to bear daily testament to the gift of life, from its first beginnings until its natural end."

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