Image: Billy Graham
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The Rev. Billy Graham said in a news conference Tuesday that his upcoming Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade will be his last revival in America.
updated 6/21/2005 8:10:49 PM ET 2005-06-22T00:10:49

An ailing Billy Graham, acknowledging that his life's work is near its end, said Tuesday that his upcoming revival meeting in New York "will be the last in America, I'm sure."

The 86-year-old preacher said he is still considering an invitation to preach in November in London, but said his death "could happen any day."

"I look forward to death," Graham said at a news conference ahead of his three-day New York crusade, set to begin Friday. "I look forward to seeing God face-to-face."

Failing health
Graham is suffering from a host of ailments, including hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, and prostate cancer and told The Associated Press last week that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He uses a walker due to a pelvic fracture last year and had to be guided to his seat by aides before speaking with reporters.

His powerful voice has diminished over the years, and his hearing is failing, yet he responded strongly to questions Tuesday. He also showed that his sense of humor remains intact.

Talking about the promise of heaven and, looking at the crush of news photographers surrounding him, Graham said, "I hope I'll see all of you there. And bring your cameras."

Graham plans to preach for about 35 minutes at each of the three rallies this weekend. His son, Franklin, now head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, will stand by as substitute preacher in case of emergency. A pulpit has been designed for the elder Graham with a movable seat hidden from view, so he can sit if he feels tired.

Organizers originally planned to hold this week's meeting in Madison Square Garden, where in 1957 Graham held a legendary crusade that was so popular it was extended from six to 16 weeks. It remains his longest revival meeting ever. "I ran out of sermons after a week or two," Graham recalled.

Large crowd anticipated
However, due to expectations of large crowds, this week's event was moved to a bigger venue, Corona Park in Flushing Meadows, near Shea Stadium.

Seating is available for 70,000 people, with room for overflow. Graham told the AP that he knew many people planning to attend because they believe it will be his last rally.

Graham said he was returning to New York because Christian leaders here had told him the city was more open to a spiritual message after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Thousands of volunteers from more than 1,300 New York area churches have been organizing the event, which is free to the public.

Graham declined to discuss politics because he said it would detract from his message of salvation through Christ. "There are many times I went too far in talking about those issues. I think this time, I want to stick only to the Gospel," he said.

Yet he said that he believed the increase in political activism among evangelicals was positive for the country. That trend has overwhelmingly benefited the Republican Party.

Graham has befriended many presidents and emphasized that he knew the Bush and Clinton families and had invited President Clinton to the crusade. "I like them both and love them both," Graham said of the two families.

It was not known whether Clinton, whose offices are in New York, would attend.

In six decades of preaching, Graham has held several major rallies in the greater New York area. During that time society has changed, but people have not, he said.

"At my age, I have one message and that is that Jesus Christ came, he died on the cross, he rose again and he asks us to repent of our sins," he said. "We don't have any possibility of solving our problems today except through Jesus."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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