Tags: vatican | pope | retirement | head

Vatican Confirms Pope Hit Head, Denies It Led to Retirement

Friday, 15 Feb 2013 09:49 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI injured his head last March while traveling in Mexico, but denied reports that the accident prompted the pontiff's decision to retire.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, Thursday confirmed a report from the Turin newspaper LaStampa about the Pope's accident, the New York Times reported. The press corps traveling with Benedict was not informed about the injury at the time.

La Stampa said Benedict had gotten up in the middle of the night and could not find a light switch, accidentally hitting his head on a sink in the bathroom. The incident happened around a month before Benedict’s 85th birthday.

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A prelate on the trip said the Pope came down to breakfast the next day, and had blood in his hair from the fall. There was also blood on the pope's pillow and on the carpet. “But it was not a deep cut, nor was it worrisome,” he said, adding that the injury was covered by Benedict’s thick hair.

The unidentified prelate told the Italian paper he heard that the Pope's doctor was concerned about the elderly man traveling so much, and that Benedict agreed.

But Lombardi said the Pope's decision to retire was about more than the injury in Leon, Mexico.

“I don’t deny that this episode happened, but it didn’t impact on the rest of his trip, nor on his decision to resign,” said Lombardi. “That isn’t linked to one single episode.”

The Pope's health has also been under greater scrutiny following his retirement announcement. Tuesday, the Vatican confirmed the pope had had a pacemaker installed while still a cardinal, and its batteries were changed three months ago.

Benedict said Thursday he would hide himself from the world, taking his leave of parish priests and clergy members of the Diocese of Rome. His retirement becomes official on Feb. 28, marking the first time a Pope has retired in nearly 600 years.

“Though I am now retiring to a life of prayer, I will always be close to all of you, and I am sure all of you will be close to me, even though I remain hidden to the world,” Benedict, 85, told the assembly of hundreds of priests.

After he retires, Benedict will live in a convent in Vatican City, where the nuns who look over him now will continue to take care of him. Benedict's longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, named prefect of the papal household two months ago, will also continue to work for Benedict, and possibly his successor, said Lombardi.

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