Pope John Paul II celebrates 25 years

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Karol Wojtyla, former archbishop of Krakow, former actor, playwright and skier, celebrated 25 years as Pope John Paul II last night with a mass in St Peter's Square attended by 50,000 and watched by hundreds of millions worldwide.

His body stooped and twisted, his face robbed of expression by Parkinson's disease, the Catholic Church's first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years is soldieringon through a week of festivities that includes the beatification of Mother Teresa on Sunday and a "consistory" (ceremonial meeting) of cardinals, next Tuesday.

"Knowing my human fragility," he told the congregation, "[God] encourages me to respond with faith ... and he invites me to assume the responsibilities that he himself has entrusted to me."

And while the media focusses on his successor the 83-year-old pontiff's, thoughts remained on his mission. He rebukedChurch ministers who fail to deal with "grave lapses" and "crimes" - taken as an attack on bishops in the United States who failed to tackle the paedophilia crisis.

Some cardinals plan to to press the Pope to retire. But a Vatican official said: "The Pope's feeling is that Jesus didn't come down from the cross, and therefore neither should he... he will keep going until he literally drops."