Vatican Says Pope John Paul II Is Near Death; Millions of Faithful Worldwide Pray for PontiffPope John Paul II was near death Saturday, his breathing shallow and his heart and kidneys failing, the Vatican said. Millions of faithful around the world knelt, crawled on their knees, bowed their heads and lit candles to pray for the 84-year-old pontiff.
"This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope," Angelo Comastri, the pope's vicar general for Vatican City, told a crowd at St. Peter's Square, where up to 70,000 people prayed and stood vigil in the chilly night. Wrapping themselves in blankets, many tearfully gazed at John Paul's third-floor windows, where the lights remained on early Saturday.
The Vatican said Friday morning that John Paul was in "very grave" condition after suffering blood poisoning from a urinary tract infection the previous night, but that he was "fully conscious and extraordinarily serene" and declined to be hospitalized.
By Friday night, the pope's condition had worsened further, and he was suffering from kidney failure and shortness of breath but had not lost consciousness as of 9:30 p.m., the Vatican said.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the Vatican's health minister, told Mexico's Televisa dal Vaticano that the pope "is about to die."
"I talked to the doctors and they told me there is no more hope," the Mexican cardinal told the television channel.
As word of his condition spread across the globe, special Masses celebrated the pope for transforming the Roman Catholic Church during his 26-year papacy and for his example in fearlessly confronting death.
In Wadowice, Poland, people left school and work early and headed to church to pray for their native son.
"I want him to hold on, but it is all in God's hands now," said 64-year-old Elzbieta Galuszko at the church where the pope was baptized. "We can only pray for him so he can pull through these difficult moments."
In the Philippines, tears streamed down the face of Linda Nicol as she and her husband asked God to grant John Paul "a longer life."