VATICAN CITY Apr 1, 2005 — Pope John Paul II suffered heart failure and is in "very grave" condition, the Vatican said Friday, but it said he was lucid and spent the morning celebrating Mass and receiving top aides, asking one to read him the biblical account of Christ's crucifixion and burial.
Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls choked up with tears as he told reporters about the pope's worsening condition. He said the 84-year-old pontiff had been "informed of the gravity of his situation" and decided to remain in his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square, where thousands of pilgrims gathered to pray for him.
John Paul participated in Mass and received some top aides Friday morning, Navarro-Valls said.
"The pope is still lucid, fully conscious and extraordinarily serene," Navarro-Valls said. He said the pope had unstable blood pressure and remained in "very grave" condition.
Among the top church officials who gathered at his bedside was Archbishop Paolo Sardi, the Vatican vice chamberlain who runs the Holy See between the death of a pope and the election of a new one.
Thousands stood vigil on the square outside, many tearfully gazing up at his third-floor window, and millions more around the world paused to pray for him.
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 in Wadowice, southern Poland. "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." Muslims in France were praying for the pontiff because he was a "man of peace," said Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.
Navarro-Valls said John Paul asked aides to read him the biblical passage describing the final stage of the Way of the Cross, the path that Christ took to his crucifixion. In that stage, according to the Bible, Christ's body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in his tomb.