Pope John Paul Prays for Rain

( [email protected] ) Aug 12, 2003 01:36 PM EDT

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy – With hundreds of people dying in Europe from what weather experts call one of the five worst heat waves in the last 150 years, Pope John Paul asked God to send down heavy rains.

"I ask you to join me in my prayer for the victims of this calamity and urge all of you to ask the Lord fervently to grant the thirsty Earth the coolness of rain," he said.

The 83-year-old Pope addressed his speech during his twice-weekly summer appearances to the hundreds of pilgrims and tourists who gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence south of Rome.

"Vast fires have broken out these days in several European nations, with particular intensity in Portugal, causing deaths and enormous damage to the environment."

"This is a worrying emergency which, fueled by persistent drought but also by human responsibility, is threatening the environmental patrimony, which is a precious good for all humanity," he said.

The pope, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, appeared in relatively good condition and read his address clearly.

In France alone, 100 people are reported to have died from the calamity; In Portugal, fires have killed 15 people. The heat wave is expected to last throughout September.