2016-07-27
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The Vatican angrily brushed aside Monday a published report that Pope John Paul II will be confined to a wheelchair within two years by the effects of Parkinson's disease.

The article, published in the Sunday Times of London, quoted unidentified neurologists following the pope's case as saying his condition will worsen because he has refused higher doses of medicine for fear of becoming disoriented.

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

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

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

Without referring directly to either report, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano also attacked "revelations" about the health of the 79-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff.

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

Referring to Holy Year 2000, L'Osservatore Roman editor Mario Agnes wrote, "The Jubilee proceeds with the pope's pace: apparently faltering but internally vigorous." This is, he said, "an objective reality that seems to annoy a hidden, meager group that from time to time announces through some compliant means of communication predictions without sense and 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 the furniture, but he will need a wheelchair within two years."

The doctors disclosed the pope has refused to take larger doses of medicine prescribed to control his debilitating disease because he fears side effects that would interfere with his activities, the newspaper said.

"It is a courageous choice," one unidentified physician was quoted as saying. "When he was taking a larger dose of the pharmaceutical he suffered from a sense of disorientation. He wants to have the most lucid possible mind."

The Italian news agency AGI countered the Sunday Times by quoting another medical source as saying that no physician "can predict with certainty the evolution that a pathology of the Parkinson's type could have 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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