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Newsweek: Pope John Paul II -- Vatican Sources Say Pope No Longer 'The Leader' Because of Frail Condition; 'Most of the Time, He Signs ... Whatever They Give Him to Sign' Needs to Know All the Gory Details,' Says American Monsignor

Source - NEWSWEEK
Story Filed: Sunday, March 31, 2002 11:14 AM EST

NEW YORK, Mar 31, 2002 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- An official in the Vatican tells Newsweek that Pope John Paul II, who will turn 82 in May, has lost his ability to run the Vatican with a firm and decisive hand. "He is no longer the leader," says an archbishop at the Vatican. "He reads whatever they give him to read. Most of the time, he signs ... whatever they give him to sign."

"The Pope no longer has the energy to face up to the pressures of the different currents inside the Vatican," one official, a cardinal, tells Newsweek in the April 8 issue (on newsstands Monday, April 1). The Vatican did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment on the pope's condition, but some who deal with him say he is still able to fulfill his duties. "The Holy Father is quite alert," says Father Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit who works at the Vatican.

Just three sentences of the pope's annual pre-Easter message to priests around the world were dedicated to the current scandal of sexual abuse by clergy. He made another brief, nonspecific reference to the problem last week during his Holy Thursday homily. Vatican sources tell Newsweek that John Paul's handling of the issue has also been affected by his deteriorating physical condition, and by the reluctance of some aides to tell their ailing boss the whole truth. "The pope knows what's been happening in the U.S.," says an American monsignor who works at the Vatican. "But we don't think he needs to know all the gory details."

                      (Read Newsweek's news releases at http://www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com. Click "Pressroom.")

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