Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict XVI meet in March.(AP)
The Vatican on Wednesday insisted that former Pope Benedict XVI does not have any specific illness apart from the problems associated with old age after a Spanish author claimed the former pontiff had suffered a “dramatic” deterioration in his health.
Paloma Gomez Borrero, a correspondent at the Vatican, said Benedict’s health had “dramatically diminished over the past 15 days, “ adding that one can only conclude “he must have something very serious.”
“We won't have him with us for very much longer,” she said in a report in the Spanish newspaper ABC. Gomez made the comments on Tuesday, at the launch of her new book on the conclave called “From Benedict to Francis”. “It is unlikely that the Pope Emeritus will appear again in public,” she said.
The journalist added the Pope’s decision to resign was a "very bitter chalice" for him and that the former pontiff demonstrated "great humility" in doing so.
But speaking to Newsmax Wednesday, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that Benedict “has no illness” and that “the problems are those connected with age.” His comments are consistent with Vatican statements since Benedict announced his resignation on Feb. 11.
Still, many noticed how much more frail the former Pope looked when he met Pope Francis last month, and that he had appeared to have aged considerably in the three weeks he had been out of office.
Observers noted how he had become much thinner, even before he resigned, losing 22 pounds in the past year according to those closest to him — something Vatican doctors had observed in January with some concern. He had also begun to tire quickly; his personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, said his blood pressure was having strong fluctuations and so he advised the former Pope to avoid air travel.
The Vatican revealed in February that Pope Benedict had a pacemaker fitted a number of years ago; his biographer, Peter Seewald, confirmed he was unable to see out of his left eye, creating problems when walking, especially up and down steps. The former pontiff has used a walking stick for the past couple of years because of pain in his right hip and ankle.
Despite the constant speculation, the Vatican has regularly insisted that Benedict, who turns 86 next week, is not suffering from anything other than the physical trials of old age. His plans to move into a converted convent in the Vatican at the beginning of May remain unchanged.
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