By Jessica Price
Members of the BYU community of Roman Catholics say they are saddened by 83 year-old Catholic Pope John Paul II”s declining health. In the face of his ailments, the pope continues to travel around the world although efforts have been made to slow him down.
“He”s lived a marvelous life,” said Juliana Boerio-Goates, a Catholic BYU professor of chemistry. “I think it”s sad that he”s no longer able to do the things he used to do. He was very athletic in his younger years and loved to ski. I rejoice in the life that he”s lived.”
Despite the Parkinson”s disease, arthritis, frail bones and abdominal pain the pope suffers, people that spend time with him say he remains mentally acute.
“He”s been a great intercessor of peace in the world,” said Ivan Perez, a Catholic BYU student from Mayaguiz, Puerto Rico. “It would be a big loss to us.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, Vatican officials labor to portray the pope in an energetic light, even though slurred speech, hunched posture and frequent blank expressions have plagued him.
“Perhaps even this appointment of the 31 new cardinals is indicative of his failing health,” said Roger Keller, BYU professor of world religion. “Just as we aren”t going to see the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles being more, quote, liberal, this Pope believes in traditional Catholicism.”
Officials do say the pope is doing better now than even a year ago. This is because of changes in his schedule and upper body physical therapy.
According to CNN, the Vatican is going through great lengths to be sure his energy is carefully conserved. Most places he goes he is either rolled, carried or hydraulically lifted.
“We know that there”s that possibility that he may die, but that may happen to any of us,” said Ada Lujan, parish secretary of St. Vincent De Paul in Salt Lake.
In the past 25 years, Pope John Paul II has made more than 2,300 speeches in 279 countries speaking a dozen languages.
“He has kept a travel schedule as much as he has been able,” Keller said. “It brings him closer to the people and people feel a connection with him.”
With his worldwide fame came serious threats. A man named Mehmet Ali-Agca shot the pope in 1981, but later the pope visited him in jail and publicly forgave him.
Calling the shots at the Vatican, the pope has ordered for more trips to be organized. He recently got back from Slovakia and is planning to go to Mongolia, although the SARS epidemic has delayed the trip.
When the pope dies, the cardinals under the age of 80 are called together in Rome. They are locked away from the public and sleep in small rooms near the Sistine chapel where they eat and sleep until a new pope is elected from among them. This group will include the 31 new cardinals recently elected.
“He wanted to make sure he got these people in place so the more conservative leadership of the church would be the ones who elected the new pope – people who thought more like he did and less like some of the revisionists,” Keller said.
Advocates of more liberal ideas inside and outside of the church threaten the future of the Catholic Church without the appointment of more conservative cardinals.
“Women should not be priests, celibacy should be the norm and ordination of homosexuals would be inappropriate,” Keller said, sharing Pope John Paul II”s beliefs.
When another pope is called, Keller said it would be almost impossible for a liberal pope to be chosen.
“I have faith that whoever succeeds him will be very capable,” Boerio-Goates said.