It’s being reported this morning that Pope John Paul II has received the last rites. The London Times quotes a senior cardinal as saying the Pope is “nearing the end”.

The official line from the Vatican is that the 84-year-old pontiff has been “struck by a high fever caused by a confirmed infection of the urinary tract”. And the Catholic Church says the “the anointing of the sick” does not mean the Pope is close to death, as ABC Online reports here. Instead it’s administered to “bring spiritual strength during a serious illness, by uniting the sick person to the passion of Christ”. He also received the sacrament after he was shot four times during a 1981 assassination attempt.

When the Pope does die, the 123 voting cardinals from around the world will be called to the Vatican to elect a new pope at the Sacred College of Cardinals. has a detailed explanation of the succession process here. And AP has produced an interesting story on the quiet preparation being made by US television networks for when the big event eventually takes place. A CBS News executive travelled to Rome when the Pope’s health problem began to negotiate a ten-year lease for the rights to broadcast from the roof of a hotel overlooking St Peter’s Square. That was nine years ago.