Pope canonises three missionaries

 

Pope John Paul II canonised three 19th century missionaries at the Vatican today. Looking stronger than he did yesterday, the pope, whosuffers from Parkinson's disease, read only the Italian part of his homily while a cardinal read the German part.

This was apparently to help the 83-year-old pope, bedeckedin gold vestments, conserve his strength for the rest of theceremony for tens of thousands of people in an overcast StPeter's Square.

There have been growing fears recently for the health of theRoman Catholic leader, who can no longer walk without assistanceand has struggled to speak at some public appearances.

But his words were much clearer today than yesterday when he appeared particularly tired during a meetingwith the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

At the end of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, the popesaid that "God willing" he would make a planned trip on Tuesdayto a shrine in the southern city of Pompeii.

His chair was then placed on an open "popemobile" and driventhrough the crowd.

Today's ceremony brought to 476 the number of people thepope has canonised, more than all of his predecessors combinedsince the current saint-making process began in the 16thcentury, according to Vatican figures.