- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

VATICAN CITY A cardinal who is considered a likely candidate to be the next pontiff yesterday said he thinks Pope John Paul II "would have the courage" to resign if poor health left him unable to carry out his ministry.
In Rome to receive an honorary degree from a pontifical university, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras was asked by journalists what the pope should do if his increasingly frail health leaves him unable to govern the church.
The cardinal replied that if the pope realizes "he cannot continue to carry out his ministry for health reasons, he would have the courage to resign."
Only a day earlier, the pope, during his weekly public audience, made clear he has no intention of stepping down.
The pope, who has the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and knee and hip ailments, turns 82 tomorrow. He told the audience Wednesday: "I count on your spiritual support to continue faithfully in the ministry that the Lord entrusted to me."
The Vatican had no comment on the cardinal's remarks.
Vatican officials have frequently said that John Paul, now in the 24th year of his papacy, the longest pontificate since the 1800s, is not considering resignation.
The charismatic, well-spoken Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, 59, is seen by many as one of the potential candidates in the next election for pope.
The cardinal is not the first high-ranking prelate to say he thought the pope might resign if he couldn't do his job.
Two years ago, a top German bishop, Karl Lehmann, said he believed the pope would step down if he thought he could no longer lead the church. The pope later raised the bishop to cardinal's rank.
And one of Europe's most influential cardinals, Belgium's Godfried Danneels, has called for debate on limiting the term of the papacy.


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