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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 22:19 GMT
Pope has Parkinson's disease - surgeon
Pope John Paul II addresses the crowd in St Peter's Squre, Rome, on New Year's Day
The Pope has had a hectic Jubilee Year
Pope John Paul II is suffering from Parkinson's disease, it has been confirmed.

The news, suspected for some time, was revealed by one of the doctors on the 80-year-old Pope's medical team.

Italian orthopaedic surgeon Gianfranco Fineschi, who operated on the Pope in 1994 when he broke his leg, said he was concerned about the Pope's health after a gruelling Jubilee Year.


Without God's help he would never have made it through the year

Dr Gianfranco Fineschi
"Every time the Pope sets off on a journey or when he gets tired during an official engagement, I fear for him," said Dr Fineschi, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

"I should order him to rest but it would be futile," said the doctor in an interview with Oggi magazine, quoted by ANSA. "The various operations he has had and the Parkinson's disease have made him suffer much."

Busy schedule

Parkinson's is a nervous disease which spreads slowly through the body, causing trembling of limbs and head. Symptoms can be partially controlled by drugs, but there is no known cure.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope is the most well-travelled in history
The Vatican has never officially acknowledged the Pope has Parkinson's and this is the first time a member of his medical team has openly linked the Pope with the disease.

"The Holy Father has a heavy framed body, a bit like a swimmer's, but without God's help he would never have made it through the year," said Dr Fineschi.

In the last year the Pope has attended hundreds of ceremonies around the world, including a week-long trip to Israel and Palestinian-controlled territories last March.

Papal trips already planned for 2001 include Syria, Malta, Ukraine and possibly Greece.

The Pope's increasing frailty has led to suggestions that he could become the first Pontiff in 700 years to retire - a possibility dismissed by the Vatican.

Bishop Karl Lehmann, the president of the German Bishops' Conference, said last year the Pope could retire if his health prevented him from doing his job.

Fears that the Pope could be suffering from the same disease suffered by former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, increased in the early 1990s when a violent trembling in his left hand became clearly visible.

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Parkinson's Disease
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