Beliefnet
The Vatican angrily brushed aside Monday a publishedreport that Pope John Paul II will be confined to a wheelchair withintwo years by the effects of Parkinson's disease.

The article, published in the Sunday Times of London, quotedunidentified neurologists following the pope's case as saying hiscondition will worsen because he has refused higher doses of medicinefor fear of becoming disoriented.

"With regard to an article that appeared yesterday in an Englishnewspaper, it is not the first time that we read these prophecies thatlater turn out to be unfounded," chief Vatican spokesman JoaquinNavarro-Valls said.

"The article, lacking sources and precise information, should not betaken into consideration," he said.

The Sunday Times article came just two weeks after a report thatBishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the German bishops'conference, had called for the pope to resign because of his failinghealth. Lehmann said he had been misquoted, but the report stirreddebate over whether the pope should or even could retire.

Without referring directly to either report, the Vatican newspaperL'Osservatore Romano also attacked "revelations" about the health of the79-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff.

John Paul, who will be 80 on May 18, has had trouble walking sincehe broke his thigh in a fall in his bathroom in 1994. His left handshakes constantly, and the Vatican has acknowledged that this is due toa neurological ailment, believed to be Parkinson's disease.

Referring to Holy Year 2000, L'Osservatore Roman editor Mario Agneswrote, "The Jubilee proceeds with the pope's pace: apparently falteringbut internally vigorous." This is, he said, "an objective reality thatseems to annoy a hidden, meager group that from time to time announcesthrough some compliant means of communication predictions without senseand without foundation."

The Sunday Times quoted one neurologist as saying that the pope"should be able to walk in his room for some time yet, holding on to thefurniture, but he will need a wheelchair within two years."

The doctors disclosed the pope has refused to take larger doses ofmedicine prescribed to control his debilitating disease because he fearsside effects that would interfere with his activities, the newspapersaid.

"It is a courageous choice," one unidentified physician was quotedas saying. "When he was taking a larger dose of the pharmaceutical hesuffered from a sense of disorientation. He wants to have the most lucidpossible mind."

The Italian news agency AGI countered the Sunday Times by quotinganother medical source as saying that no physician "can predict withcertainty the evolution that a pathology of the Parkinson's type couldhave on the pontiff."

Despite his declining health, John Paul still maintains a busy travel schedule. In February is scheduled to travel to Egypt, followed a month later by a visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestinian Authority territory.

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