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Sick pope cancels weekly audience

From CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci

Pope John Paul II holds his head during his weekly general audience on September 7.
Pope John Paul II holds his head during his weekly general audience on September 7.

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John Paul II

ROME, Italy -- Pope John Paul II has been forced to make a rare cancellation of his weekly general audience outside his Vatican City apartment due to intestinal problems.

Vatican officials stressed it was a precautionary measure.

The 83-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Church arrived back in Italy on September 14 after a grueling four-day trip to Slovakia, where he appeared particularly frail and short of breath.

He remains at his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, just outside of Rome, where he plans to finish off his vacation until the end of the month.

The Vatican says the rest of his working schedule remains intact, including a busy October.

On October 16, the pope celebrates the 25th anniversary of his pontificate; on October 19, he will celebrate a three-hour Mass for the beatification of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

The pope has had intestinal problems in the past.

In 1981, he had most of his intestine removed after he was shot in an assassination attempt. In 1992, the pope had a benign tumor removed from his intestines and four years later, he had appendicitis.

The Vatican announced Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, would represent the pontiff at the audience, reported The Associated Press.

The pope has cancelled his general audiences on short notice only a handful of times during his papacy of nearly 25 years.

The 83-year-old pope suffers from Parkinson's diseases, and has debilitating knee and hip ailments that have made it difficult for him to walk.

His aides wheel him around in a throne-like chair for public appearances and to celebrate public Masses.

In July 1992, when he was 72, the pope entered hospital for the removal of a large intestinal tumour the size of an orange. The tumour was caught as was it was beginning to turn malignant.

While the current intestinal problem was deemed not serious, the pope's doctors want him to be careful because there could be complications with his other ailments.

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