Failing Health Forces Pope to Limit Travels

From Wire Service Reports

Pope John Paul II will continue his travels in 2003, despite failing health, and will reach the milestone of 100 trips outside Italy. But his visits will be relatively brief and only to European countries, the Vatican said this week.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the 82-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff is scheduled to visit Spain on May 3-4, Croatia on June 5-8, Bosnia on June 22, and Slovakia on Sept. 11-14.

John Paul may also return to France to speak at the European Parliament in Strasbourg later in the autumn.

Vatican sources have said that the pope's doctors advised him against making tiring intercontinental trips lasting a week or more and involving time changes. John Paul suffers from arthritis and a debilitating neurological condition believed to be Parkinson's disease.

In the first 24 years of his papacy, John Paul made 98 trips outside Italy, visiting 130 countries, many of them more than once. He has traveled a total of 1,237,584 kilometers -- the equivalent of almost 31 times around the world or more than three times to the moon.

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