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Monday Mar. 25, 2002



Ailing pope limits participation in Palm Sunday ceremony in St. Peter's Square

Associated Press

Plagued by knee pain, Pope John Paul II took the exceptional step of ceding his place at the altar during Palm Sunday Mass, the latest sign of the health problems that are exacting a toll on the once tireless pontiff.

To the surprise of tens of thousands of faithful who turned out on a spring day so cold snowflakes wetted the top of the colonnade around St. Peter's Square, John Paul did not celebrate the Mass. Instead, he sat in an armchair near the altar on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, letting an Italian cardinal take his place.

The pope, who turns 82 in May, read the homily and several prayers during the nearly 21/2-hour celebration, but the substitution - a severe break with tradition - spared him a long spell standing behind the altar.

Persistent knee pain blamed on arthrosis, a degenerative joint disease, forced the pope to cancel several public appearances recently and abandon, at least temporarily, his cherished tradition of informal yesterday visits to parish churches in Rome.

The Vatican did not publicly explain why Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini gave Mass in the pope's place.

However, a Vatican official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that while the pope's doctors have said that the knee is improving, they have been adamant that he take it easy. John Paul at first balked at the idea of not celebrating the Mass, the official said.


Two buses collide, injuring 12 members of high school rowing team in New York

Associated Press

Two buses collided on an interstate highway just north of New York City, injuring 12 members of a high school rowing team, police said.

The accident happened Saturday night when a coach driving one of the buses fell asleep at the wheel and hit another bus just in front of him, said State Trooper Robert Young.

The buses, carrying students from The Gunnery, a private high school in Washington, Conn., spun and overturned at an entrance ramp to Interstate 684 about 8 p.m., Young said.

The most seriously hurt was a 19-year-old boy who suffered broken bones and bruised lungs. Eleven other students received mostly minor injuries, Young said. Neither driver was hurt.

Young said each 15-person bus was carrying eight students and an adult driver. The team was returning from the Roanoke, Va., area, where it had been practicing during the school's spring break, he said.

Driver Neil Bergenroth, 27, was released from police custody yesterday and will not be charged, Young said yesterday.

The second bus was driven by another employee of the school, and the team's head coach had been driving in a third vehicle, Young said.


Arizona AG says Maricopa County can safely sponsor tribal stadium bid

Associated Press

Maricopa County can safely sponsor an Indian tribe's bid for the $350 million Arizona Cardinal football stadium, Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano says.

Napolitano's comments contradict a legal opinion issued Wednesday by County Attorney Richard Romley.

"He is wrong, he is just wrong," Napolitano told the East Valley Tribune in an interview published yesterday. "I think this is a lawyer issue and drafting issue more than anything else. To raise these concerns now at the 11th hour when you don't even know what the actual transaction is going to look like is not persuasive."

The Gila River Indian Community pulled its stadium bid Thursday, a day after Romley said significant hurdles could prevent the county's participation.

Mesa is the lone remaining bidder right now for the stadium project but city officials plan to speak with Cardinals executives today morning before deciding whether to continue its bid or drop out as well.

The county could avoid potential liability issues stemming from tribal sovereignty through contractual agreements, Napolitano said.

Napolitano's comments could help open the door for the Gila River community and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation to remain in the stadium competition.

County Supervisor Fulton Brock said he's open to sponsoring the Gila River bid if the county can be protected from civil lawsuits.



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