POPE JOHN PAUL II was given the last rites last night (31MAR05) after suffering breathing problems and unstable blood pressure - but is currently in a "stable" condition.

The Pope, who has had a string of health problems in recent weeks, was able to make the sign of the Cross in bed this morning (01APR05) as aides read THE BIBLE to him at The Vatican.

A spokesman said the 84-year-old's condition had deteriorated yesterday when he developed a urinary tract infection leading to "septic shock and a cardio-circulatory collapse".

The Pope has decided not to return to a local hospital, where he has already been treated twice this year (05). Instead, he is surrounded by a team of top physicians in his apartment within The Vatican.

Pope John Paul II is the third longest-serving pope in history and became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1978.

01/04/2005 14:00