In his last years, the pope's health became increasingly fragile, and Parkinson's disease was clearly taking a toll on him. Nevertheless, he remained active, ignoring suggestions he might consider retiring. He continued with his often-grueling schedule, reportedly telling aides, "If I collapse, I collapse."
The year 2000 was a jubilee year for Catholics -- and it was a remarkable year for the ailing pope. In March, he made a wide-ranging apology for the mistakes made in the name of the church through the ages.
In Israel, he continued his message of reconciliation when he visited the Holocaust memorial and prayed at the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites of Judaism.
In the year 2001, John Paul named a record 44 new cardinals, which means he chose the vast majority of the cardinals who will now elect his successor.
In October 2003, the pope and millions of people around the world celebrated his 25th anniversary as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
That month he waived the standard waiting period and beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the nun who became world-renowned for her efforts to help India's poor. The move put the nun, who died in 1997, on the fast track for being recognized as a saint.
In his final weeks, the pope's increasing frailty and inability to speak -- the result of a tracheotomy -- seemed to frustrate him. Forced to miss the traditional Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday, March 25, he nevertheless appeared via video link. In a message read by a cardinal, John Paul assured the faithful he was "spiritually with you."
"Even I offer up my sufferings, so that God's plan is fulfilled and so that his word spreads among the people," the pope said. "I am also close to those who, at this moment, are tried by sufferings. I pray for each one of them."