President Bush says he and the First Lady are praying for Pope John Paul II, who Vatican officials say is drifting in and out of consciousness.

President Bush began his weekly radio address with thoughts on the failing health of the 84-year-old pontiff.

"His Holiness is a faithful servant of God and a champion of human dignity and freedom," the president said. "He is an inspiration to us all. Laura and I join millions of Americans and so many around the world, who are praying for the Holy Father."

The president is being kept up to date on the pope's condition, and administration officials say the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is in close contact with the Vatican.

The president and the pope met last June in Rome. The pope repeated his opposition to the war in Iraq, and rebuked Mr. Bush for abuses at the Abu-Ghraib prison. The president thanked the pope for his moral leadership, and awarded him America's highest civilian honor.

White House officials say it is not an appropriate time to speculate on whether the president would attend the pope's funeral.