Pope may revise travel plans

 Pope John Paul may alter some of his travel plans because of his declining health - a Vatican spokesman said yesterday. Speaking at the end of the Pope's visit to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, Cardinal Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said that the Holy Father would certainly attend World Youth Day in Toronto in July, but plans to visit Mexico and Guatemala might be revised. According to the official schedule Pope John Paul is due to travel to Toronto, and then Mexico and Guatemala, from July 23 to August 2. He is also scheduled to travel to Poland from August 16 to 19. Vatican officials have adapted their plans to accommodate the Pope's increasing physical frailty. During last week's trip, organizers brought along a lift and a rolling platform to save the Pope walking and climbing stairs. Others read speeches for him, and carried out gestures such as laying wreaths at the tombs of saints. Despite his physical frailty and the difficulty he has in moving, the Pope remains mentally alert and energetic, Navarro-Valls told a press conference. "His memory, his capacity to plan for the future, and his sense of humour are completely intact," he said. Navarro-Valls said: "John Paul II will continue to travel, adapting his obvious physical limitations within his pastoral ministry." Earlier in the week Cardinal Walter Kasper, the German cardinal in charge of the Vatican's relations with other Christian churches, admitted that the delegation was "preoccupied" with the Pope's health but said that the Pope had no intention of scaling down his engagements. "Suffering is in some sense his profession," he told French news agency AFP. "It shows that an old and sick person still has some value in a world where the tendency is to reject the old and the weak."

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