Aide: Rumors About Pope’s Health “Baseless”

French Newspaper Calls Into Question Pontiff’s Vitality

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008 ( Rumors suggesting that Benedict XVI’s health is failing are “baseless,” confirmed the Vatican.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said this in statements to the press after the French newspaper Le Figaro published an article Saturday that raised questions regarding the Pontiff’s health. The report also speculated on future successors to the papacy.

The spokesman said the article’s assertions, published less than one week after the Pontiff ended his five-day apostolic trip to the United States, were “paradoxical.”

“Benedict XVI is well and it is paradoxical that doubts about his health are being manufactured precisely after his return from his demanding trip [to the U.S.], during which his schedule was not lightened in any way, and given the obvious joy with which the Pope responded to the welcome he received,” he said.

“It is curious that the doubts about the Pope’s health emerged in a moment in which everything proved that they had no basis,” Father Lombardi added.

On his April 15-20 trip to the United States the Pope followed an intense schedule that included delivering 19 speeches and homilies in five days.

Le Figaro’s assertions were based on reports that Benedict XVI appeared tired as he celebrated Mass April 19 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and that after the ceremony he was helped by aides so as “to not trip under the great weight of the liturgical vestments.”

Father Lombardi responded, “Any priest who celebrates with very heavy and long vestments is helped so that he does not trip on the stairs of the altar.”

The French newspaper also observed that the Pope didn’t hold a general audience on the Wednesday after his return to Rome following trip so he could rest. The Vatican spokesman said the audience had been canceled two months before the trip to the United States, and that “the necessity of rest after a trip across the ocean is completely obvious, as anyone who has had to change time zones knows well.”

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