New fears for Pope's health as he cancels procession
THERE was fresh speculation about Pope Francis' health yesterday after the Vatican said he would not be leading a religious procession through the streets of Rome in order to save his strength for coming engagements.
The announcement follows the Pontiff's decision earlier this week to cancel his morning Mass and Wednesday general audiences in July.
The Pope (77) had been due to celebrate Mass on the steps of Rome's Basilica of St John Lateran yesterday to mark the Feast of Corpus Domini.
But the Vatican announced that he would not lead the faithful – as the Pope normally does – through the streets to the St Mary Major Basilica, a distance of just under a mile.
The candlelit procession was instead led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General for the diocese of Rome.
"The Pope thought it was worthwhile to cancel the long trip on foot between the two basilicas, also in light of his forthcoming engagements," said a Vatican spokesman.
On Saturday, he will visit Calabria to pray for Nicola "Coco" Campolongo, a three-year-old boy killed, with his grandfather, by the mafia.
The Pope has set a frantic pace since he was elected in March last year.
He made a historic three-day visit to the Middle East last month, and millions greeted him when he visited Brazil last year.
Last week he cancelled two days of engagements because of a "mild illness".
Last night the Vatican attempted to play down concerns for the pontiff's health saying that there was no reason for alarm.
Pope Francis is known to suffer from sciatica, or leg pain caused by a pinched nerve. The procession of over a kilometre in which the Pope holds up a gold monstrance – a case containing a communion host – marks the day that the Catholic Church in Italy celebrates the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
"The pope saw it opportune to not do the long route by foot . . . with a view towards his upcoming commitments," the Vatican said. The Vatican said he did not want to be driven on a popemobile while holding the communion host – as his predecessors did to conserve their strength in their later years – so that the attention of the faithful would remain on the religious event and not on him.
Last week the pope had to cancel an engagement because of a slight fever.
But he has since made several appearances – including his Wednesday general audience before tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square – and looked in good health.
(© Daily Telegraph)