They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Barely weeks following the appearance of the white smoke out of the Vatican confirming the election of Pope Francis, his predecessor, Benedict xvi, is heavily rumored to be significantly ill.
Official Vatican sources deny that Benedict is suffering from any serious ailment. Certain journalists, however, are going public with the story.
Is there any truth in it? It’s hard to say.
Right now with Vatican sources remaining mum on the subject, there’s little to go on to confirm that there’s any truth to the story that emanated chiefly from the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Journalist Paloma Gómez Borrero writing for El Pais indicated that Benedict will make no further public appearances and stated her belief that Benedict may not be long for this world.
The Telegraph’s Damian Thompson chimed in, using what appeared to be almost epitaph language: “I think all of us were distressed by the fragility of Pope Emeritus Benedict xvi when we saw him greet his successor, Pope Francis. The footage was almost too painful to watch. … His condition has apparently continued to decline. … [M]any of us regard [Benedict xvi] as the most inspiring pope of modern times. No pontiff for centuries has written and preached so brilliantly about the relationships between liturgy, evangelism and the shape of history” (April 10).
Catholic World News commented briefly, “Pope Emeritus Benedict has lost a significant amount of weight in recent weeks. He walks with increasing difficulty, reportedly has nearly lost vision in one eye, and has a history of cardiac problems. Nevertheless the Vatican has said that Benedict does not have any immediate life-threatening illness. He plans to move into his new residence inside the Vatican in May” (April 10).
The most reliable report on this subject appears to be from the National Catholic Register of April 10, which says that “Vatican doctors had noted with concern how he had become much thinner back in January, before he resigned. He had also begun to tire quickly and his personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca, said his blood pressure was having strong fluctuations. He advised the pope to avoid air travel.”
Otherwise the Register follows the Vatican line on the subject.
Whatever the truth concerning Benedict’s state of health, one thing is for sure, he will continue to be a strong influence on the direction of the papacy of Pope Francis until the day he either dies or loses any capability of continuing to use his powerful intellect in the service of mother Rome. ▪