02.04.2005 General News

Pope was a man of love, cared about the poor - Bishop Lodonu

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Accra, April 2, GNA - Pope John Paul II, the 84-year-old pontiff, whose critical medical condition is a source of worry for the Catholic faithful across the world, was a man of love who cared deeply about the poor, Bishop Francis Anani Lodonu, Bishop of Ho Diocese said on Saturday.

"He was great in every aspect, spiritual and material," he told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview on telephone from his residence at Ho.

"He was a man of all seasons and always had a human approach to issues," he added.

Bishop Lododu, who has met the Pope in Rome, said the ailing pontiff would be remembered for his love for Africa, for which he relentlessly demanded that its debt burden should be cancelled. "He had a strong desire to lift the poor out of their condition. He was a great lover of Africa, not only for the Catholic Church in Africa," Bishop Lodonu said.

The Bishop noted that the Pope always defended the poor, was against the crippling debt burden that was hurting the poor and called for the forgiveness of debt for Africa.

He said the Pope was criticised for being a conservative because of his views on abortion, gay marriages and contraceptives, but he sincerely believed these were wrong.

The Pope was very confident and believed in whatever he did. Bishop Lodonu said the Pope would also be remembered for his openness, as Bishops who arrived in Rome could celebrate mass with him at short notice.

"The doors of the Pope were always open," he said. The Vatican said on Saturday that Pope John Paul II's overall condition is "very serious" but he is not in a coma although he is drifting in and out of consciousness. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said: "The pope is not in a coma,"

"As of dawn this morning, the start of a compromised state of consciousness was observed," Navarro-Valls told a news conference. The Pope's overall heart and breathing conditions remained "very serious."

"The general, cardio-respiratory and metabolic conditions of the Holy Father are substantially unchanged and therefore are very serious," he said.

The spokesman said the 84-year-old tried to speak on Friday evening.

"Last evening, the Pope probably had in mind the young people whom he has met throughout the world ... and seemed to be referring to them when, in his words ... he seemed to have said the following sentence: 'I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you'," Navarro-Valls said.

He added that the Pope tried to say this several times. The Pope suffered a heart attack and a septic shock on Thursday in a dramatic deterioration of his already fragile condition. He refused to be hospitalised for the third time in two months although the Vatican says he was aware of the gravity of his condition.

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