Bad Knee to Keep Pope from Presiding over General Audience

Arthritic Condition Forces Cancellation of 2 More Parish Visits

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2002 ( A persistent pain in his right knee has forced John Paul II to alter this Wednesday´s catechesis and to cancel his next two visits to Roman parishes.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls explained in a press statement today that «the doctor who looks after the Holy Father, with the advice of his collaborators, and in consideration of the persistent symptoms of pain in the right knee, of a confirmed arthritic nature, has advised the Pope to take the necessary rest to adequately cure the discomfort.»

«For this reason, the general audience tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6, will be held at two different moments: the catechesis prepared by the Holy Father will be read in different languages in the Paul VI Auditorium,» the press statement said.

«Subsequently, the pilgrims will gather in St. Peter´s Square to receive the greeting and final blessing of John Paul II, who will appear at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace,» the statement added.

«In addition, the two visits to Roman parishes scheduled for the forthcoming Sundays will be postponed,» the statement concluded. The previous two visits were canceled because of the Holy Father´s knee problem.

Vatican Radio asked Navarro-Valls if the Pope´s knee ailment will affect his upcoming appointments, especially in the long term.

«No, absolutely not,» Navarro-Valls said. «The appointments scheduled for the whole of next week and for these days will not change. Therefore, all the Holy Father´s private audiences in his library in the Apostolic Palace, and meetings will continue as planned.»

«Simply, what will diminish is the Holy Father´s activity outside the Apostolic Palace, which would cause further discomfort to this ailment of an arthritic nature,» the spokesman added.

In fact, the Pope met with a second group of Argentine bishops this morning, who are in Rome for their «ad limina» visit.

Vatican sources told ZENIT that, during the visit of the first group of Argentine bishops on Feb. 12, one of the bishops mentioned a cardinal´s name as a «worthy» successor to the Pope. A smiling John Paul II responded: «My successor is not yet a cardinal.»

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