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Pope turns 83, canonizes saints

Pope John Paul II with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on eve of pontif's 83rd birthday
Pope John Paul II with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on eve of pontif's 83rd birthday

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VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II celebrated his 83rd birthday Sunday doing what he has done more than any of his predecessors -- canonizing saints.

Appearing in better health than a year ago, and speaking with a strong, clear voice, Pope John Paul II presided over the canonization ceremony for four new saints in St. Peter's Square Sunday morning.

The two Poles and two Italians bring to 473 the number of saints canonized by Pope John Paul II, more than the combined 299 saints by all the previous popes since 1588.

John Paul II is the fourth longest serving pope in history.

Catholics around the world were able to e-mail birthday wishes to the pope through the Vatican's Web site.

Vatican officials said they were getting an avalanche of messages.

While many birthday cakes have been sent to the pope, the Vatican says he'll only be served a pie made by Polish nuns who attend to his daily needs.

A Milan newspaper Sunday quoted a top Vatican official as confirming reports Pope John Paul II suffers from Parkinson's disease.

The head of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, told the newspaper Corriere della Sera that the pontiff's prayers help him cope with the disease.

Despite his age and illness, the pope continues to travel extensively.

The pontiff goes to Croatia in early June with a day trip later in the month planned for Bosnia. In late August, he will travel to Mongolia with a possible stop in Russia.

-- From CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci

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