Spirit Daily


Rumors Fly As Big Day Approaches For A Pontiff Who Fulfilled Mission Of Fatima

By Michael H. Brown

There are always rumors about the Pope, and they are reaching a fever pitch as we approach the 25th anniversary of his historic pontificate. We have to be extraordinarily cautious with them, because most are simply a repetition of false or premature rumors of the past. Just today, the Vatican shot down reports that he may be given dialysis to purge Parkinson's medications from his increasingly frail body.

No doubt John Paul has weakened; even cardinals have remarked on this lately. But beyond that there is little that can be verified. In Italy reports have been rife that John Paul II has had a recurrence of cancer in his stomach or at least abdominal region. None bear official confirmation. In July 1992, when the Pope was 72, doctors removed a tumor the size of an orange from his intestines. It was said to have been caught just as it was beginning to turn malignant.

In the years since, there have been constant rumors that it has recurred, and most such reports sprang from his increasingly aged appearance. But much of that has been linked to his suffering from Parkinson's Disease and also problems in his knee joints that prevent him from walking or standing alone for any length of time.

Still, the reports flare. "Pope John Paul has inoperable stomach cancer which recently spread to his colon," claims one weblog, without documentation. "A team of palliative medical specialists is now permanently based in the Papal Apartment in the Apostolic Palace. They administer drugs to try and ensure the Pope will live to carry out the three climatic events of his 25 years on the Throne of St. Peter. They revolve around the anniversary of his election on Wednesday (October 16). The celebrations are planned to include the beatification of Mother Theresa and presiding over the consistory, or assembly, of cardinals, including the 31 he has just created. But increasingly the Vatican is preparing the world's 800 million Catholics for his impending death."

This report, drawing on those from Italy, went on to assert that "two weeks ago, there was evidence that the disease had returned. Last Wednesday [two weeks ago], the Vatican announced that John Paul's regular general audience in St. Peter's Square was cancelled because the Pope had complained of 'intestinal' problems. A colonoscopy was performed. The first indication of the gravity of the situation came shortly afterwards."

Again, these are the rumors. And they claim that the Holy See's diplomats and papal nuncios have been apprised of the situation. It's not clear how much to believe. Some does sound plausible. According to the weblog, the Pope's senior private secretary, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, is the only non-medical person to freely come and go from the Pope's bedroom overlooking St. Peter's Square, and he has said little. "There is a nebulizer by the Pope's bedside to assist John Paul's breathing," claim such reports. "Trolleys dot the room laden with other medical equipment."

If that's true, it is also true that the Pope -- contrary to previous rumors -- remains fully in charge. His mind is often lucid, and he has continued to closely follow world events -- most recently intervening in an attempt to save hostages in Colombia. "The Pope insists on maintaining, as far as possible, his daily schedule," it is reported. "He awakes at 5:30 a.m. Two Papal Attendants help him to dress. Then they wheel him to the apartment's private chapel. The two blue-suited Vigili, members of the Vatican security force, bow as the Pope passes. Vigili have always stood guard over John Paul, even in the Papal Apartment, since that fearful day in May 1981 when an attempt was made to assassinate him in St. Peter's Square. The apartment staff, nuns and secretaries, are joined by the medical team for the early morning Mass. Afterwards, the Pope has breakfast and begins his work schedule," with periods of rest.

The mention of the assassination attempt is ironic because it had occurred on May 13, 1981 (feast day of the first apparition at Fatima, Portugal) -- and this week, in fact today (October 13) -- is the anniversary of the famous sun miracle there.

Perhaps we should leave the Pope's private matters alone and on this -- on his spiritual power, which in suffering may be greater than at any other time -- should we concentrate.

In the following days, we will hear much of what the Pope has accomplished, especially how he led the way to bringing down Communism in Eastern Europe. Secular reports will detail the way he set about visiting Poland immediately after he was named Pope -- a visit that preceded formation of the democratic union Solidarity -- and how John Paul II was the inspiration for the insurrection that rose there and spread across Eastern Europe, then, incredibly enough, to the Soviet Union itself.

We will hear about the political side, but the important side was the spiritual one. For here is the fact: the fall of Communism came in the late 1980s, shortly after John Paul II, heeding the call from Our Lady of Fatima, consecrated the world and implicitly Russia to her Immaculate Heart in 1984. The Blessed Mother had promised in 1917 that if this was done Russia would convert and stop spreading her errors around the world -- the error of atheism, which has since stopped, at least for the time being.

On the very day in 1990 that Lech Walesa of Poland was celebrating new freedom, he was pictured on the International Herald Tribune with a statue of the Fatima Virgin smiling behind him!

This could well have forestalled a nuclear exchange that seemed to be warned about in the Third Secret.

"As former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev conceded much later, 'One can say that everything that has happened in Eastern Europe in recent years would have been impossible without the Pope's efforts and the enormous role, including the political role, he has played in the world arena," noted yesterday's New York Post.

Let us focus on this -- more than the Pope's health. He will be with us whether on earth or interceding from Heaven. Perhaps as prophesied the end of his papacy will mark the beginning of purification. Perhaps he was sent to prepare the Church for a great storm. We know he was sent to change the world -- and that he did, through prayer.

This is the real legacy of his: grand success through the intercession of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. For John Paul provided the most effective answer to the contemptuous comment decades earlier from Gorbachev's predecessor, Joseph Stalin, who sneered: "How many divisions does the Pope have?" He needed none -- only an army of believers armed with the Rosary.


Resources: Calls from the Message of Fatima, Fatima, the story behind the miracles

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