The byline was incorrect on a May 22 Religion article about Pope John Paul II. The article was written by Peggy Polk, a correspondent for Religion News Service. (Published 5/25/04)
Pope John Paul II uses a wheelchair and sometimes has trouble speaking clearly, but as he turned 84 Tuesday, he showed no sign of letting up. His latest book came out on his birthday, and he is planning trips to Switzerland, France and possibly Mexico and a meeting with President Bush.
Despite age and illness, John Paul has made clear that he intends to continue to lead the world's more than 1 billion Catholics, and his admirers expect no less from a pope who was once so strong and vigorous that he was known as "God's athlete."
Addressing him by his childhood nickname, Italy's top-selling weekly Famiglia Christiana sent John Paul birthday greetings in its latest issue, saying: "Don't get tired, Lolek." To mark John Paul's birthday, the Italian publishing house Arnaldo Mondadori issued a book of reminiscences about his years as a bishop in communist Poland. It is titled "Alzatevi, Andiamo!" -- Jesus's words to the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane -- "Get up, let us be going!"
Mondadori announced a first printing of 500,000 copies in Italian, as well as editions in Spanish, German and French. A church publishing house is bringing out the Polish edition and has presented the pope with an advance copy. The English edition has been delayed by negotiations between Mondadori and the American publisher.
The weekly newsmagazine Panorama, which belongs to the same publishing group as Mondadori, put the cover of the book on its cover. It shows John Paul pressing a crucifix to his forehead.
If the book does as well as the pope's previous works, it will be a bestseller. His 1994 book, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," an extended interview with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori about theological questions, sold 20 million copies worldwide, and his 2003 poetic mediation, "Roman Triptych," has sold well over 1 million copies.
The Vatican recently issued the schedule for the pope's visit to Bern, Switzerland, June 5-6. It will be a busy 35 hours for the pope. That Saturday, he will meet with the president of Switzerland and attend a gathering of young Catholics, and on Sunday, he will celebrate an outdoor Mass and meet with Swiss bishops and with former Swiss Guards.
On June 4, the eve of his departure for Switzerland, John Paul will receive Bush at the Vatican. During the audience, they are expected to discuss terrorism, Iraq and the Middle East, subjects on which the pope has often spoken out.
John Paul is expected to travel to the French shrine of Loreto on Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to mark the 150th anniversary of the declaration by Pope Pius IX of the doctrine of her immaculate conception.
There are also plans for him to beatify a leader of Italian Catholic Action at the Italian shrine of Loreto on Sept. 5, address the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in late September and, if he can convince his doctors that he is strong enough, fly to Mexico in mid-October for a Eucharistic Congress.
Last summer, which was exceptionally hot in Europe, John Paul appeared increasingly frail, and on a trip to Slovakia in September, he was so weak that he could barely speak. But by Christmas, he had regained his strength.
Because the pope suffers from Parkinson's disease, a neurological condition, there was speculation that a change in medication had helped his recovery.
John Paul maintains a full schedule of audiences six days a week and presides over religious observances, including the full Holy Week and Easter schedule. In addition, he beatified four candidates for sainthood March 21 and six more April 25, for a total of 1,324 beatifications in the quarter-century of his papacy, and he proclaimed six saints Sunday, for a total of 482 canonizations. He ordained 26 priests May 2.