The Pope’s recent absences raise questions about his health
Filed under From Rome
On July 13, 2014, following the last-minute cancellation of his visit to Gemelli Hospital in Rome that had been scheduled for June 27, Pope Francis sent a video message apologizing to the patients and staff of that institution. The Supreme Pontiff mentions a bad headache and nausea that came over him a few minutes before his departure for Gemelli Hospital, on the afternoon of June 27. The cancellation had been communicated at the very hour of his expected arrival, when his collaborators and all the participants in the Mass that he was supposed to celebrate were already on site. This new cancellation of a public appointment of the Pope had raised numerous questions about the state of his health; some observers even doubt the real reasons for his absence. Previously a visit to the Shrine of Divine Love near Rome, planned for May 18, had to be canceled, in order to lighten the Pope’s schedule before his journey to the Holy Land. The cost of these receptions that were not honored by the presence of the Pope made more than one observer wince: between 140 and 150,000 Euros for the one at Gemelli Hospital; almost 200,000 Euros for the one at the Shrine of Divine Love. Perhaps this very specific fact is what prompted the Pope to apologize to the patients and staff at Gemelli?
On June 16, the American Catholic website Newsmax
wondered about the state of the Supreme Pontiff’s health; (the remarks were excerpted by Dr. Jean-Pierre Dickès
in a French-language report for Médias-Presse-Info dated June 19): “Apparently the Pope has increasing difficulty breathing, since he has only one lung. Now, because of his new duties, he can no longer exercise; hence he has gained as much as twenty pounds, thus aggravating his respiratory problems. Dr. Peter Hibberd
, medical advisor to Newsmax, warned: ‘Francis may be slipping into a form of chronic heart failure common among victims of significant lung disorders such as COPD.’ ‘I have the impression that something is wrong,’ explained Dr. Liu Ming
, a Chinese Taoist doctor who claims to have helped cure the future Pope from heart and liver problems. Finally, the Pope’s personal physician in Argentina had said he was ‘concerned’ about his patient’s health.”
In the June 29 issue of the Italian daily newspaper Libero
, journalist Antonio Mastino
published an article entitled “The Soap Opera of the Pope’s Health”. Here are a few excerpts translated from the version posted in French at the website Benoît et moi
: “… But what are the reasons that led the Pope of ‘mercy’ to cancel his meeting with the sick ‘at the last minute’? ‘A mild indisposition,’ they said immediately at the Casa Santa Marta; but then another impromptu justification arrived, which partially contradicted the first, stating that he was only ‘very tired’. Excuse me? Either health or fatigue. Which is it? To judge by the annoyance of the director of the Gemelli Hospita, Maurizio Guizzardi
, everything leads us to think that in his hearing someone proposed the first hypothesis. This is the opinion of the prelate of the papal household.” (Translator’s note:
This was Monsignor Marini, to whom a journalist posed the question, “What is going on?” and who replied “If you yourselves don’t know….”).
“As for his health, just recently a Vaticanist who is at home at the Casa Santa Marta (Editor’s note: probably Andrea Tornielli
, Vaticanist for La Stampa
, who is very close to Francis), an extremely faithful member of Bergoglio’s circle, declared that the Pope ‘is very well; those who say that he is ill wish it were so….’ Anyway, Pope Francis is not new to these last-minute absences. Exactly one year ago, when the musicians were already set up for their concert ‘in honor of the Pope’ in Paul VI Hall, Francis, caring about nothing and no one, announced that he was not ‘a Renaissance prince’, and therefore concerts did not interest him, and he would skip it without even a note of apology. The musicians who had prepared for months in order to give the Pontiff evidence of their artistry played to an emblematically empty chair. Last February, another unexpected ‘mild indisposition’ caused him to skip ‘at the last minute’ the traditional annual meeting of the Pope with the students of the Roman Seminary, ‘the Pope’s seminary’, a meeting which, from time immemorial, no pope has ever missed. The Roman seminarians were disappointed.
“But what do these unexpected absences of Francis mean? A partial answer is found in a book-length interview from his time in Buenos Aires, in which these ‘last-minute’ program changes were familiar. (Translator’s note:
It is a shame that Antonio Mastino does not cite the title.) The cardinal himself explained that ‘when I do not want to do something, to meet someone, I say that I am unwell: I like to meet whom I want, when I want.’ In practice his ‘mild indispositions’ are to be traced back to the variable humors, and perhaps to the sympathies and antipathies of Bergoglio. And indeed, another detail is obvious: this time again, Cardinal Angelo Scola
, his direct rival at the conclave, is the one who suffers the consequences of Bergoglio’s ‘mild indispositions’. Twice already last year, after he had obtained an audience with Francis, ‘at the last minute’ he had someone tell him that he had ‘a mild indisposition’. An indisposition that some people by now think concerns Scola…. But the question remains: How is Francis doing? We have seen him remain until noon at his audiences with the faithful in excellent shape, just like the other times when he had called off meetings with Scola and others because of ‘unexpected indispositions’. The latest unofficial news about him goes back to a few minutes after his boycott of the Gemelli Hospital: he was strolling in the Vatican Gardens, chatting with some prelate from his entourage. At the Casa Santa Marta, they hasten to say that the Pope’s visit to Gemelli was not canceled but simply ‘postponed’. Who knows. Meanwhile, the soap opera continues.”(Sources: Apic/IMedia/Libero/benoitetmoi – DICI no. 299 dated August 1, 2014)