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Pope Gravely Ill, No Hope Seen

June 1, 1963 - Pope John XXIII is gravely ill, and there is no hope for his life. He fell into a coma late last night but regained consciousness early today. Then he greeted and gave his blessing individually to his relatives and prelates at his bedside, sipped black coffee, and was heard to recite a prayer. Later, the Vatican radio said this did not “change his condition.” It had said in an earlier broadcast that “every human hope of a comeback was excluded.” Extreme unction had been administered at the Pope’s request before he sank into the coma and while, according to reports, he was still lucid of mind. Yesterday, when the seriousness of the Pope’s condition was realized, his confessor, Msgr. Giuseppe Cavagna, gave him viaticum. The Latin word means “provisions for the journey.” Viaticum consists of holy communion given to those in danger of death. It is administered with the words: “Receive brother, the viaticum of our Lord Jesus Christ that He may preserve thee from the malignant enemy and bring thee to everlasting life.” After the viaticum, the Pope’s Sacristan, Msgr. Peter Canisius van Lierde, gave him the sacrament of extreme unction. Though in great pain, Pope John remained lucid all this time, and he followed the rites with profound devotion.


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