Special Mass for Pope as His Condition Deteriorates

APRIL 1, 2005 - Posted at 2:17 p.m. CST

VATICAN CITY - As word comes that Pope John Paul's condition has worsened, a leading church official says "he already sees and already touches Christ."

Hundreds of people attended a special Mass celebrated by the pope's vicar for Rome.  Cardinal Camillo Ruini told them that John Paul's faith is so strong and so intensively lived that he already is in Christ's hands.

The Vatican says John Paul's breathing has become shallow and his kidneys are failing, after he experienced heart failure and septic shock.  But his spokesman says he's been participating in prayers with aides who have gathered at his bedside.

There's a set of bronze doors beneath a portico off St. Peter's Square that are usually closed when a pope dies.  An Italian television network is reporting one of the doors was closed today, as about 30 police officers stood guard.  It's not clear just what that might mean.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)