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Pope Edges Near Death As Faithful Pray and Wait

In the morning statement, Navarro-Valls said that Mass was said in the pope's apartment Saturday morning, but unlike descriptions of the pope's activities provided Friday, there was no mention of the pope participating in the rite or making requests or tracing the sign of the cross.

The spokesman, who had previously described John Paul as "lucid," acknowledged that the pope was barely able to communicate.

A group of nuns pray in St. Peter's Square, where thousands of Roman Catholics gathered throughout the day and evening on Friday as Pope John Paul II's health continued to deteriorate. (Stefano Rellandini -- Reuters)

_____Catholics Pray_____
Photo Gallery: Catholics across the world pray for the ailing Pope John Paul II as he nears death.
Video: Cardinal McCarrick remembers the pope.
Video: Catholic religous leaders urge the faithful to pray for Pope John Paul II.
Video: Mass is held at Washington's Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
Video: The Post's Robin Wright shares her experiences covering the pope with washingtonpost.com's Terry Neal.
_____Live Video_____
Live Video From St. Peter's Square
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He said visitors to the papal apartment inside the Vatican's Apostolic Palace had "reconstructed" words spoken by the pope, which were addressed to young people, apparently specifically to those young people who have been gathering in the square beneath the pope's Vatican apartments.

The pope said, "I've tried. You've come to me and I want to thank you," according to the spokesman.

The pope suffered heart failure and oscillating blood pressure Friday after developing a urinary tract infection Thursday, the Vatican said. Informed of the gravity of the situation, he gave instructions that he would rather remain in the Vatican than reenter Gemelli Polyclinic hospital in Rome, where he has been treated over the years for a variety of illnesses, the Vatican said.

In February, he underwent throat surgery at Gemelli to relieve difficulty in breathing, which is a common symptom of advanced Parkinson's disease, from which he suffers. His decision Friday to stay put in his apartment was widely seen as a sign that nothing could be done to reverse his decline.

There is a saying in Rome that a prophet does not die outside of Jerusalem and popes don't die outside the Vatican.

John Paul was being treated by his chief physician, Renato Buzzonetti, along with two emergency room specialists, a cardiologist, an ear, nose and throat specialist and two nurses.

On Friday morning, the pope received visits from his chief aides, one by one. Among them were Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state; Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's senior guardian of dogma; Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the assistant secretary of state who has delivered the mute pope's messages; Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the American administrative governor of Vatican City; and Ruini.

Ruini described the visit in a television interview: "I prayed with him for a moment, which profoundly moved me. The pope has left himself in God's hands." He called on Catholics to pray for the pope, another traditional signal of the grave state of a pontiff's health. "We want to be close to him in this hour through the same loving closeness with which John Paul II has accompanied us for nearly 27 years."

The pope's last public appearance took place Wednesday, when he was wheeled up to his apartment window to bless a throng in the plaza. He was unable to speak coherently, but made the sign of the cross with his right hand. On Easter, he spent 12 minutes at the window, sometimes writhing in apparent agony and twisting his mouth as if trying to scream.

Barbash reported from Washington.

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