John Paul II Won't Step Down, Says Journalist

But That’s Not News to Those Who Know the Pope

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2002 ( A journalist’s contention that John Paul II has made the firm decision not to step down didn’t come as news to the Vatican.

On Saturday, journalist Vittorio Messori, who collaborated with the Pope in the 1994 book «Crossing the Threshold of Hope,» published a story in the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera asserting that the Holy Father would not retire for health reasons.

The journalist said his information came from sources that could be trusted, «beyond any possible denial.»

The Vatican Press Office assistant director, Father Ciro Benedettini, said the Vatican had no specific comment on the Corriere report but noted that the information was not particularly new. The Pope on various occasions has said it was for God to decide when his work was finished, Father Benedettini noted.

In a paraphrase of what Messori affirms are John Paul II’s thoughts on the subject of retirement, the Corriere article said: «The force to continue is not my problem but that of Christ, who wanted to call me, though unworthy, to be his vicar on earth. In his mysterious design, he has brought me here. And it will be he who decides my fate.»

The Holy Father’s homily on Saturday afternoon, during the Mass celebrating the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, seemed to confirm Messori’s thesis.

Commenting on Peter’s liberation from prison by an angel, the Pope said: «With this extraordinary intervention God’s help arrived to his apostle so that he could continue in his mission — a mission that was not easy, that implied a difficult and fatiguing journey.»

Mentioning the suffering of the Apostle Paul, the Pope added: «Whoever confides in God is freed from every fear and also experiences the consoling presence of the Spirit, especially in moments of trial and suffering.»

Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, a compatriot and close friend of the Pope’s, told the daily La Repubblica that John Paul II «will never abandon the Church.» It is the Lord who decides when it will be time for the Pope to go, the cardinal said.

With Saturday’s homily, John Paul II has in effect answered all those who speculated about his possible resignation, affirmed Cardinal Deskur.

«He taught others to be strong, and to never become discouraged,» the cardinal added. «And as for himself, he never said no to whatever sacrifice in the name of the Lord.»

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