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Will the Pope step down?

February 08, 2005 16:01 IST
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, The Vatican secretary of state (equivalent to a Prime Minister) sparked off speculation Monday that the ailing Pope John Paul II, 84, might step down.

This is best 'left to the conscience of the Pope,' Cardinal Sodano -- who is running the Vatican since the Pope was hospitalized last week after  influenza -related throat spasms complicated by Parkinson's Disease--was quoted as saying. 'We should have faith in him. If there is one man who knows what to do, it is he.'

Apart from Parkinson's, Karol Wojtyla, better know as Pope John Paul II, has had a tumor removed from his colon and suffers from crippling hip and knee ailments which don't let him walk.

The Pontiff at 25

Parkinson's disease "brings with it a series of risks, among which are those we have witnessed in recent days," Dr Corrado Manni, who has attended several earlier surgeries on the Pope, told the Italian daily  La Repubblica.

But while asserting that the Pope would certainly recover from this latest bout of influenza, he could not rule out "a similar relapse

in the future."

Sodana's comments were in response to a question by Vatican watcher and writer Marco Politi, who asked if the Pope's physical condition allowed him to govern the Church.

"The Church needs direction. Although the Pope, by his suffering, has given witness, everyone knows that he has not been hands-on for 18 months to two years," The Times, London, quoted a senior source at the Vatican as saying.

'Asian Pope cannot be ruled out'

However, in an apparent rebuff to calls for his resignation, an aide read a message from the Pope Sunday saying: "In this hospital, in the middle of other sick people, I can continue to serve the Church and all humanity."

The Pope has repeatedly said earlier that the question of his stepping down did not arise, and asked "Did Christ come down from the Cross?"

However,  the Pontiff has reportedly left a resignation letter with Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, the Papal Chamberlain, to be used if he becomes mentally incapacitated.