April 1 (Bloomberg) — Pope John Paul II’s health has worsened, with his breathing “shallow” and his biological functions “notably compromised,” the Vatican said in a statement issued to reporters about 7 p.m. in Rome.
The Pope’s blood pressure is dropping, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a written statement. “The clinical picture indicates cardio-circulatory and renal insufficiency,” he said.
Pope John Paul II, spiritual leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics, earlier received the blessing for the dying after suffering heart failure and a high fever, weeks after surgery to relieve breathing problems. While there was no immediate confirmation, Italy’s Apcom news agency reported that the Pope had lost consciousness.
The world’s cardinals, who will select John Paul II’s successor, have been summoned to Rome, a sign that preparations are under way for a conclave, the secretive election procedure that must begin within three weeks of the pope’s death.
Catholics around the world gathered to pray for the pope, and a special mass was held at the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, over which the pope presides as Bishop of Rome. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, implored the Lord to spare the pope any suffering and “bring him home” during a televised address from the U.S. capital.