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Pope Has No Plans to Retire, French Cardinals Disclose

September 23, 1996| From Reuters

REIMS, France — Pope John Paul II talks openly and without fear of the day he will die and plans to lead the Roman Catholic Church for the rest of his life, French cardinals said Sunday.

They gave a rare insight into the 76-year-old pontiff's attitude toward death and his papacy at a news conference shortly before John Paul wound up his last foreign trip ahead of planned surgery to remove his appendix next month.

"He speaks of his death freely and with a smile," said Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, France's top Roman Catholic and a friend of the pope.

"There is no fear in the face of the void," said Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris, who is viewed by some Vatican watchers as an outside contender to succeed the ailing pontiff.

The pope, who underwent major surgery in 1981 after an assassination attempt and again in 1992 to remove an intestinal tumor, has suffered three bouts of fever this year linked by his doctors to an inflammation of the appendix.

He has appeared fatigued at times and in discomfort but looked relatively robust and at ease during his four-day visit to France, warming to crowds and speaking strongly despite occasional trouble from a mild cough.

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