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Pope Slipping In and Out of Consciousness, Vatican Says

The Vatican says Pope John Paul II has begun to slip in and out of consciousness and that his condition remains extremely serious.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls says the Pope showed the first signs of losing consciousness early Saturday. Speaking to reporters through an interpreter, the spokesman who is a physician described the Pontiff's lapse into unconsciousness as a compromising moment.

"It was noticed that there was a rather difficult compromising moment at 7:30. Nothing has changed since," he said.

But Dr. Navarro insists the 84-year-old Pope is not in a coma and says he opens his eyes when spoken to.

Pope John Paul's health took a sharp turn downward late Thursday, and a day later the Vatican said his heart and kidneys were failing, his breathing was shallow and his blood pressure had fallen to what it described as dangerously low levels.

In an indication that the pope is still able to speak, Dr. Navarro says when aides informed the pontiff that thousands of young people had gathered in Saint Peter's Square with other pilgrims and tourists to pray for him during a long overnight vigil, the aides quoted John Paul as saying, "I have looked for you and now you have come to me." - an acknowledgment of the youths' presence in the square below his apartment.

One of John Paul's closest aides, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was quoted by the news agency of the Italian Bishops' Conference as saying the Pope is aware that he is dying.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan told the Mexican television network Televisa that the pope's doctors told him the pontiff is about to die and that there is no longer any hope of saving him.

The Vatican says it will provide a further updates on the pope's condition.