It’s been 44 hours since we have witnessed his worsened health condition. News are streaming down every media channel reporting the minute by minute of his latest condition. Thousands have gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray, to sing, and to accompany him in his – could be – last hours on earth. He has touched the lives of many people – directly or indirectly. He’s one of a kind spiritual leader. And during this hours let’s pray for him as he’s facing his human mortality.
JPII, we love you and we’ll be with you till the end.
John Paul II near death Kidneys and breathing failing, he declines hospitalization
By Ian Fisher (New York Times)
Vatican City – Pope John Paul II was near death as dawn approached Saturday, his breathing shallow and his heart and kidneys failing, the Vatican said. Millions of faithful around the world paid homage, many weeping as they knelt with bowed heads, others carrying candles in prayer for the 84-year-old pontiff.
“This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope,” Bishop Angelo Comastri, the vicar of the Vatican, told the tens of thousands of faithful who converged on St. Peter’s Square.
The square was ablaze in floodlights and huge TV screens for a prayer service within sight of the light still burning at 11 p.m. in the pope’s third-story apartment.
The mood was mournful, with Italians and pilgrims crying and kneeling on the square’s cobblestones.
“When the father suffers, the children suffer,” Comastri said. “When the father dies, the children kneel and pray and tell him of their affection and their gratitude.”
Worry for the pope, and some degree of relief that he might soon be released from his prolonged and painful years of illness, overflowed around the world: in Jerusalem, New York and London; in Latin America and Asia, where the church has grown strongly under John Paul II’s reign; in Poland, where he was born in 1920.
A medical bulletin released about 7 p.m., as a Mass began at St. John Lateran for his health, said that the pope’s blood pressure was suffering a “gradual worsening” and that his “breathing has become shallow.”
It noted problems with his cardiovascular system and his kidneys.
“The biological parameters are notably compromised,” said the statement, which was issued by the pope’s chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
In the dry medical language, it was the grimmest bulletin from the Vatican since the pope’s health began its swift downward spiral.
With his kidneys giving out, virtually all the pope’s major organ systems are now compromised.
The pope, who has suffered from severe breathing problems related to his advanced Parkinson’s disease for the past two months, had not previously had any particular trouble with his heart or urinary system. But at the end of life, when one system fails, others tend to follow.
John Paul’s health declined sharply Thursday when he developed a high fever brought on by a urinary tract infection. The pope suffered septic shock and heart problems during treatment for the infection, the Vatican said.
Septic shock involves both bacteria in the blood and a consequent over-relaxing of the blood vessels. The vessels, which are normally narrow and taut, get floppy in reaction to the bacteria and can’t sustain any pressure.
That loss of blood pressure is catastrophic, making the heart work hard to compensate for the collapse.
Even the fittest patients need special care and medicine to survive.
“The chances of an elderly person in this condition with septic shock surviving 24 to 48 hours are slim — about 10-20 percent, but that would be in an intensive care unit with very aggressive treatment,” said Dr. Gianni Angelini, a professor of cardiac surgery at Bristol University in England.
The latest Vatican bulletin suggested that the pope remained conscious, as he has apparently all along. “The Holy Father — with visible participation — is joining in the continual prayers of those assisting him,” the statement said.
Newspapers in Italy devoted most of today’s editions to the suffering of the Polish-born pope, whose given name is Karol Wojtyla. Il Tempo showed a photo of the white-clad pontiff with his back turned to the camera, with the headline, “Ciao, Karol.”
The Il Secolo XIX newspaper of Genoa reported that the pope, with the help of his private secretary Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, wrote a note to his aides urging them not to weep for him.
“I am happy, and you should be as well,” the note reportedly said. “Let us pray together with joy.”
Echoing an outpouring of emotion around the world, the normally restrained Navarro-Valls nearly broke into tears earlier in the day when asked his own feelings at the prospect of the death of John Paul II, the 264th pope, a once vital and athletic man whose long and transforming papacy began in October 1978.
The pope was administered the Catholic sacrament for the sick and dying Thursday.
“Certainly this is an image that I haven’t seen before in these 26 years,” he told reporters Friday, his voice breaking up. “The pope is lucid and extraordinarily serene, but of course he is having trouble breathing.”
The pope, who decided not to be readmitted to the hospital, was visited in his apartment at the Vatican by several of the most powerful cardinals in the Roman Catholic church, some of whom will run the church after the pope dies and are often mentioned as candidates to succeed him.
Up through the early evening, the Vatican’s repeated mentioning of his consciousness may not have been accidental. Earlier on Friday, the Vatican reacted with unusual swiftness to deny as “rubbish” an Italian news service report that the pope had slipped into a coma.
This is, in fact, one of the most sensitive questions surrounding the pope’s illness: While the death of the pope has long been expected, many experts note that Roman Catholic canon law makes no provisions for what happens if a pope falls into a coma.
Apart from a signed letter from the pope spelling out his wishes, which many Vatican experts say they assume exists, there is no convention for who would hold power, how power would be transferred or even who would make medical decisions for an unconscious pope.
In Gdansk, Poland, Lech Walesa, the former leader of the Solidarity trade union, gave credit to John Paul II, as many other historians have, for encouraging the Polish resistance to Soviet-backed rule in the early 1980s, a struggle that ultimately led to the f
all of communism in Eastern Europe.
At St. Peter’s, Monsignor Dario Rezza recalled in a sermon the pope’s wide travels, to about 130 countries, to spread the church’s message.
“Today the entire world is at the pope’s bedside, praying with the fervent desire that this traveler who has visited so much of the world remain with us,” he said. “The world has understood the value of this father, who has worried about global peace and well-being, who has brought the gospel to people who are suffering.”
While the pope’s health has been declining for years, showing the increasingly debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease, it has been in a steep decline since Feb. 1, when the pope was rushed to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome suffering from flu, fever and serious breathing problems.
He was discharged nine days later but readmitted with similar symptoms Feb. 24, when doctors inserted a breathing tube into his windpipe to ease the breathing problems.
He was discharged from his second stay nearly three weeks ago, but was too ill to take part in any of the Holy Week ceremonies, with the exception of Mass on Easter Sunday.
Even then, though, no words came out of his mouth when he tried to give his traditional Easter blessing from the window of his apartment on St. Peter’s.
He tried again — and again failed — in another appearance from his window Wednesday. Hours later, the Vatican announced that doctors had threaded a feeding tube from his nose to his stomach because he had not been getting enough nutrition.
Despite the variety of treatments he has accepted in the past two months, like many chronically ill patients at the end of life, the pope would have had to decide for himself when he had enough.
The Vatican report of the pope’s shallow breathing suggested, for example, that he had chosen not to go on a respirator.
Associated Press and New York Times reporters Elisabeth Rosenthal, Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo contributed to this story.