Pope John Paul Toasts the World With Croatian Wine
October 18, 2003
Pope Says Will Stay 'As Long as God Wants'
Filed at 9:24 a.m. ET
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An emotional Pope John Paul said on Saturday he
intended to stay on as head of the Roman Catholic church ``as long as
God wants'' and said he and Church leaders should proclaim their faith
to their ``dying breath.''
The pope made his comments to cardinals and bishops from around the
world at the close of a four-day seminar on his pontificate, which
marked its 25th anniversary on Thursday.
``I ask you to continue to pray for me so that I faithfully carry out my
service to the Church for as long as God wants,'' he said, speaking in
As has become custom, a senior aide read most of his address to the
group, gathered in the Vatican's audience hall. The pope, who suffers
from Parkinson's disease, has asked aides to help him read his speeches
in order to conserve his strength.
``Our main commitment...is to never shrink from the courage to proclaim
the gospel, even until our dying breath,'' he said in a part of the
speech read for him.
A swift deterioration in his visible condition has again fueled
speculation that he might choose to resign instead of ruling for life as
most of his predecessors have done.
The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V, who stepped down in
1294. Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 when there was more than
one pope reigning at the same time.
Saturday's comment was similar to one the pope made on Thursday, the day
of the anniversary, when he said God wanted him to continue leading the
Catholic Church despite his frailty.
The pontiff, who appeared in relatively good form but with moist eyes
that betrayed his emotion, also urged the prelates to lead simple lives.
``Our work will be more incisive when we know how to highlight the face
of the Church that loves the poor, that is simple, that takes the side
of the weakest in society,'' he said.
He said Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom he will put closer to sainthood
on Sunday, was ``an emblematic example'' of how the Church should be. As
the pope spoke, preparations were starting in St Peter's Square for
Sunday's beatification of India's revered ``Saint of the Gutters.''
The anniversary festivities reach their climax on October 21 when the
pope elevates 31 prelates to the College of Cardinals -- the elite group
that will choose his successor after he dies.
The pope and the prelates then retired for a sumptuous lunch with a menu
that included shrimp mousse, duck a l'orange with porcini mushrooms and
In the Vatican press room, a nationalistic cry of horror went up among
Italian journalists when a spokesman announced that the wine at the
lunch was from Croatia.