Likely successor says the Pope may be nearing his final days

John Paul II's health is deteriorating rapidly according to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, widely considered to be the leading candidate to succeed the Pope. Cardinal Danneels also suggested to the Belgian news paper, Het Laatste Nieuws, that the Pope may be near the end of his life.

The Pope suffers from Parkinson's disease, a chronic progressive nerve disease characterized by muscle tremors, weakness, rigid movements, halting gait, drooping posture and expressionless facial appearance.

The Cardinal also suggested that the Pope may have said his final farewell during his recent visit to the French shrine of Lourdes. Comments he made could be interpreted in two ways - as his farewell to the shrine or maybe to his life.

The Pope struggled as he delivered his sermon at Sunday's open-air Mass. He said, "help me" in his native Polish, drank some water, then said "I have to finish" and completed reading his entire homily in French.

John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojty³a) was born on May 18th in Wadowice, Poland. 1981 he was shot and nearly killed as he entered St. Peter's Square. John Paul II is the longest reigning Pope in history.

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