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The Vatican today denied a British newspaper report that Pope John Paul II will be forced to use a wheelchair within two years.

Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls dismissed as unfounded the report in London's Sunday Times that the pope's doctors have warned that he "will be in a wheelchair within two years."

"It is not the first time that we read these prophesies, which later turn out to be unfounded," he said, apparently referring to a report more than a year ago by a magazine that said the pope would not be able to talk.

The 79-year-old pope suffers from what is believed to be Parkinson's disease. He has walked with difficulty since 1994, when he underwent bone replacement surgery to mend a broken femur.

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