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Some insist that this final stage of John Paul's papacy has its own deep importance in his 26 eventful years on the throne of Peter, imbuing it with a spiritual dimension, which, they argue, cuts to the essence of Christianity.It's not for me to say. This is a very profound matter. But what does it matter if the Pope can't carry out all his responsibilities and others have to cover for him? The difficulty is really that those who see him suffer feel a deep need to rescue him. But he has made his decision to do something he deems meaningful and important.
"Christianity exists precisely to give significance to suffering," said Vittorio Messori, an Italian writer who spent time with John Paul during their collaboration on the pope's 1994 book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope."
The pope now "offers his suffering as a testament," Mr. Messori said, "and that is more useful than having a young leader. Not that this pope was not useful when he was young, and he does have some trouble administering the church. Certainly many things that he used to do, his collaborators have to do now."
"But at the same time," he added, "Christians don't have a strong god. They have a poor man attached to a cross."