I was wondering when the media would start the death watch for Pope Benedict XVI.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has dismissed speculation that Pope Benedict XVI’s health is in serious decline, saying the Pontiff continues to carry out an intense schedule, and reasserting he has no specific medical concerns.
Speaking to Newsmax on Wednesday, Lombardi said he “continues to confirm there is no particular illness,” adding that the Pope, who will be 85 next April, “has the strength to carry out very intense activities.” He noted Benedict XVI will be presiding over “many celebrations in the next few days which last many hours.”
“I don’t know what else to say,” he added. “It’s the usual story that tends to appear around Christmas. If you look at the live television programmes, you will see he’s fine.”
Lombardi added that each person is free to comment, but at his most recent public engagement — at a Rome prison last weekend — Benedict XVI was able to respond to questions from prisoners “in a very lively manner, quickly and lucidly. [Source]”
The speculation followed news that the Pope is suffering from arthrosis, leading him to use a mobile platform at Vatican ceremonies. Benedict XVI is also taking measures to preserve his strength; he no longer meets each visiting bishop on a one-to-one basis, nor issues public messages to new ambassadors.
This is quite familiar for anyone who remembers the constant stories on Blessed John Paul II regarding his health for over a decade. He once quipped when asked about his health that he didn’t know since he had not yet read the morning’s paper.
The real story is the fact that the Pope as he moves towards his 85th birthday manages to keep the schedule he has and that the number of papal trips is much more than many people expected for his pontificate. He has also been quite prudent in combining the Ad Limina visits and perhaps improving the quality of them with small group discussions. That the Christmas season is especially taxing on him is no surprise since the same is also true for much younger priests. This is not to deny the increased difficulties he will have because of his age, but mainly to spotlight how well he has managed despite this. The media can hardly wait till he dies and the new progressive pope of their dreams will arrive to save the Catholic Church.
Over at the Over the Rhine and into the Tiber blog:
Now that we’ve heard the news that Pope Benedict XVI won’t be stepping down, I breathlessly await the similar front-page stories that President Barack Obama will not resign, the Dalai Lama will not make way for another, newer incarnation of himself, and Queen Elizabeth still won’t give the throne to Charles. Come to think of it, these exciting stories could use up column inches on the front page for weeks! It’s a good thing nothing important is happening anywhere in the world. …