ABC News

Gravely Ill Pope Losing Consciousness

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY Apr 2, 2005 - Pope John Paul II showed the first signs of
losing consciousness at dawn on Saturday, the Vatican said, as priests
around the world prepared the Roman Catholic faithful for his passing.

But John Paul, 84, was not in a coma and opened his eyes when spoken to,
papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

The pope's health began deteriorating Thursday after he suffered a urinary
tract infection. In its latest statement the Vatican, which earlier
described his heart and kidneys as failing, said his condition was unchanged
and "very grave."

Navarro-Valls said the pope was still speaking late Friday but did not take
part when Mass was celebrated in his presence Saturday morning.

"Since dawn this morning there have been first signs that consciousness is
being affected," he said.

"Sometimes it seems as if he were resting with his eyes closed, but when you
speak to him, he opens his eyes," Navarro-Valls said.

He said aides had told the pope that thousands of young people were in St.
Peter's Square on Friday evening. Navarro-Valls said the pope appeared to be
referring to them when he seemed to say: "'I have looked for you. Now you
have come to me. And I thank you.'"

Vatican cardinal Achille Silvestrini visited John Paul Saturday morning,
accompanied by another cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran.

"I found him relaxed, placid, serene. He was in his bed. He was breathing
without labor. He looked like he lost weight," Silvestrini said.

He said the when he and Tauran came into the room, the pope seemed to
recognize them.

"The pope showed with a vibration of his face that he understood, indicating
with a movement of his eyes. He showed he was reacting," he added.

For a second day, the Vatican announced a series of papal appointments
including a Spanish bishop, an official of the Armenian Catholic Church and
ambassadors to El Salvador and Panama.

One of the pope's closest aides, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was quoted
Saturday as saying that when he saw the pontiff on Friday morning, John Paul
was "aware that he is passing to the Lord."