Pope John Paul has taken a turn for the worse, his body ravaged by heart failure and septic shock.
The Vatican says the pope's breathing has become shallow and his kidneys are no longer working properly.
The latest statement on the pope's health comes about six hours after a tearful papal spokesman told the world that John Paul was in "very grave" condition.
Still, the pope was said to be very lucid earlier in the day, and "extraordinarily serene." He visited with top Vatican officials and appointed a large number of bishops and other church officials.
John Paul asked aides to read him the liturgy of the Third Hour, the biblical passage describing the path that Christ took to his Crucifixion. In the final state of the Way of the Cross, Christ's body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in his tomb.
A Catholic leader in the U.S. says the Third Hour is especially significant for someone who is dying because tradition says Christ died at 3 p.m.