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Pope addresses the youth from his bed

Pope clinging to life, slipping

Apr. 02 ( - Pope John Paul II (bio - news) continued to cling to life on April 2, although his spokesman said that his condition remained "very grave," and reported that the Holy Father had begun to lose consciousness early Saturday morning.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Mass had been celebrated in the Pope's apartment early in the morning. At that time, he said, John Paul II seemed aware of his surroundings, and opened his eyes when someone addressed him, but otherwise "seems to be sleeping." The Pope was not in a coma, he stressed, but his consciousness was "compromised" as his health failed.

During the night, Navarro-Valls said, the Pope had said several times, "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you." The papal spokesman interpreted those words as a message to the young people who were gathered in a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square.

During the night, the square outside the papal apartment took on aspects of a World Youth Day celebration, with hundreds of young people praying and singing quiet hymns throughout the night, many of them holding candles, looking frequently up toward the windows of the Holy Father's apartment on the third floor, where the lights remained on. The windows of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano (bio - news), also remained illumined until very late at night.

Journalists also kept vigil at the Vatican, with many reporters choosing to sleep in the floor of the Vatican press office, at the entry to St. Peter's Square. Meanwhile technicians began work at the Vatican installing the equipment that will be need to accommodate the College of Cardinals and the many thousands of people who are expected to gather for the Pope's funeral.

The Pope was attended during the night by his personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, and other medical personnel. This longtime priest-secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, was at his side throughout the Pope's latest ordeal.

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