No one can argue that Pope Francis deserves a little break. Since taking office in March 2013, the 77-year-old Argentinian has been on the move almost nonstopgreeting his adoring public and reforming the Vatican’s many troubled institutions.
But an announcement by the Vatican’s news service on Monday that the pope will be drastically curtailing his schedule by suspending his popular Wednesday audiences in July and skipping his daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives, has many in Rome wondering if the pope is really OK.
Many people already have tickets for the July audiences, which implies that the decision to suspend them was spontaneous, not preplanned. Several Vatican insiders also have noted that the pope is gaining weight and breathing harder than usual, which has caused some of his close associates to warn him to slow down. “Some in the Holy See are beginning to openly discuss concerns about Francis’ condition and asking if the Holy Father is overtaxing himself,” longtime Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin wrote after the surprising changes to the pope’s schedule.
The worries began last week, when the pope spontaneously canceled his Monday and Tuesday engagements after his historic trip to the Holy Land and Peace prayer with leaders from Israel and Palestine, sending the Vatican press corps in Rome into a minor moment of panic. This week’s announcement of his amended schedule has only added to the speculation that the pope’s health is suffering.
Francis, who only has one functioning lung after having part of his other lung removed due to an infection when he was younger, has been noticeably tired in recent weeks. “Close observers are noting that the Pope’s physical body may be failing to keep up with his youthful energy and vigor, especially considering he only has one fully functioning lung,” says Pentin.
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