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Ailing Pontiff

Mon., Jan. 12, 1998

As he walked up the center aisle of the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, preparing to lead a baptism ceremony, Pope John Paul II was seen to pause and wipe his eyes, then, gripping his papal staff, lurch forward only to be caught by the arm of one of the prelates in his entourage. Although the pope appeared strong and in good humor later, one Italian news agency called the incident a dizzy spell and revived fears of the pontiff’s failing health just 10 days before the John Paul is to make a historic visit to Cuba in which he is scheduled to say Mass in four Cuban cities. In addition to walking with difficulty, the pontiff has a marked tremor in his left hand and slurred speech, which many believe are symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The Vatican denied the reports of dizziness as “absurd.”


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