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'We can do nothing but pray'
George Iype in Kochi
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April 01, 2005 13:04 IST

Bishops in India have called for special prayers for Pope John Paul II.


The Roman Catholic Pontiff's condition remains critical after he developed high fever brought on by a urinary tract infection and throat surgery. Latest reports say he has suffered septic shock and a heart attack.


"We are saddened by the news. We can do nothing but pray," said Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, major archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church.


The Pope has been administered the last rites, better known as the sacrament of the sick, Italian news agencies reported on Friday.


The rites -- also called anointing of the sick -- are administered to bring spiritual and physical strength during an illness, especially near the time of death.


The sacrament is performed to convey God's grace to the recipient and is one of the last sacraments a Catholic receives.


But Church leaders said it does not necessarily mean that the Pontiff is dying.


"The sacrament of the sick was given to the Pope earlier also. It is commonly given to people who are seriously ill," said Cardinal Vithayathil.


The Pope also received the sacrament after he was shot in Rome on May 13, 1981.


According to Church leaders, Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope's closest aide who serves as his private secretary, administered the sacrament.


Archbishop Dziwisz had given the same sacrament to the Pope on February 24, just before the Pontiff underwent a tracheotomy to insert a tube in his throat at a Rome hospital.


Bishops across India have asked the faithful to pray for the Pope's speedy recovery.


"Hundreds of people have gathered in St Peter's Square (in Rome) to pray for the Pope. People here in India also join all of them in praying for the Pope," said Ernakulam-Angamaly Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Chakiath.


Catholic Bishops Conference of India President Cardinal Telesphore Toppo has issued a statement appealing to Christians in India to pray for the Pope.


'The Church in India joins the Christian community all over the world to pray for His Holiness, who has guided us as our spiritual leader during the last 26 years,' he said.


The appeal made on behalf of 'all the Catholic bishops of the country' asked the faithful to continue to offer prayers for the Pope. 'We pray that God in his mercy will grant him strength to recover from the present sickness.'


Special prayer services for the Pope are being held in Catholic Churches all over the country.

More reports from Kerala
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