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Britain's Catholic Leader Says Pope Calm in Face of Death

Britain's senior Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, says Pope John Paul II has decided not to return to the hospital and will await death at the Vatican.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is appealing for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to pray for John Paul as he, in the cardinal's words, "very bravely meets his last hours and days."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor says he has learned from church authorities that the pope intends to remain at the Vatican. "The latest word I hear is that the pope is serene, calm, and that he does not wish to go back to hospital," he stated. "He wants to remain in the Vatican and, in as much as one knows from human sources, that he will stay there until the end."

In response to a reporter's question, the cardinal said it is too early to focus on who might succeed John Paul as the next pope.

"At this point, I am thinking of him. I am praying for him," said Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. "I am thinking about him and I am not looking at the future and I think it is not time to do that now."

The cardinal says special prayers and masses will be held for the pope throughout the day at London's Westminster Cathedral.