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Pope Suffered Heart Failure, Condition 'Very Serious' --> Pope John Paul II (file photo) 1 April 2005 -- The Vatican says Pope John Paul's condition is "very serious." In a statement, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Walls said the 84-year-old pope experienced heart failure and "septic shock" yesterday.

The Vatican said the pope has received cardiorespiratory assistance but that he is "conscious, lucid, and serene." The Vatican says it will make a further announcement on the pope's condition later this morning.

The pontiff has received the sacrament for the sick and dying -- commonly known as the last rites -- and has asked not to be taken to hospital.

His health declined sharply yesterday after he developed a high fever brought on by a urinary-tract infection. The pope has led the 1.1 billion-member Catholic Church for more than 26 years, but his health has declined steadily over the past decade.

(international agencies)