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Pope John Paul II Celebrates 83rd Birthday, Canonizes 4 New Saints - 2003-05-18


Pope John Paul II celebrated his birthday with an open-air canonization mass, at which he elevated two of his Polish countrymen to sainthood. Thousands turned out for the occasion, and the pope appeared to be in good health and enjoying the extra attention.

The pontiff thanked the thousands of supporters gathered in Saint Peter's Square on the day he celebrated his 83rd birthday. It was a joyous occasion in the crowded square, with many waving colorful flags and holding banners wishing the pope a happy birthday.

Among those present were many of the pope's countrymen, who made a national pilgrimage to Rome for his birthday, and also for a ceremony to name four new saints, two from Poland and two from Italy.

When the pope asked for prayers so that he may continue to carry out his mission, his countrymen responded "stolat," a Polish toast, wishing him 100 years of life. The pope quoted one of the newly proclaimed saints as once saying that "no condition and no age can be considered an obstacle to a perfect life."

The pope appeared in good form, a sharp contrast to his birthday just one-year ago, when he seemed weak. Then, there was much speculation that he might have to retire. But observers say his health seems to have significantly improved in recent months, possibly due to new drugs aimed at combating Parkinson's disease.

And Pope John Paul shows no signs of wanting to slow down, as he prepares to embark on his 100th foreign trip abroad, when he travels to Croatia next month.

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