Vatican insiders reveal Pope is suffering degenerative disease
The Pope is suffering from arthrosis, a degenerative disease of the joints, which is making it increasingly difficult for him to walk, Vatican insiders revealed yesterday.
The condition may explain why Benedict XVI was recently wheeled down the aisle of St Peter's Basilica on a platform.
The 84-year-old pontiff requested the platform last month for a Mass, with aides pushing him towards the main altar, saving him from having to walk.
The arthrosis has affected his knees, hips and ankles, claims Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist with 'La Stampa' newspaper who is considered one of the best connected and most authoritative Vatican observers.
The platform, which has three steps and brass handles, was built to transport the late Pope John Paul during the last five years of his life.
The revelation will raise concerns about the Pope's health as he prepares to make a three-day trip next week to Benin in West Africa.
The journey will be his second visit to Africa during his six year pontificate.
The Vatican also announced on Thursday that he was considering a trip to Cuba and Mexico next year.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, brushed aside the reports of arthrosis, saying that for his age the Pope was in generally good health.
"He is currently studying the possibility of going to Mexico and Cuba in the spring," he said.
"His health is fine and he is able to carry out his duties."
The Pope has said in the past that he would consider stepping down as the spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics if he became sufficiently incapacitated.
In an official biography that was released last year, he said: "If a pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation, to resign."
The volume, entitled 'Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times', was based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by Peter Seewald, a German journalist and Catholic convert.
The Pope's health has generally been good since he began the role in 2005.
He has maintained a busy schedule, travelling around the world.
The most serious setback to his health was in 1991, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he suffered a mild stroke which temporarily affected his vision. (©Daily Telegraph, London)