Vatican dismisses French newspaper report that pope is in poor health

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican has dismissed a French newspaper report suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI is suffering from poor health.

"Certainly the pope is a man of 81 years, but he is well and is carrying out all his tasks, as everyone can see on live TV," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said April 26, 2008.

Father Lombardi said the newspaper report was all the more surprising because it came immediately after the pope's successful six-day trip to the United States.

"This was a demanding visit, long and tiring, in which he carried out all his commitments brilliantly without giving the slightest indication of uncertainty and without having to modify or reduce his program at all," Father Lombardi said.

An article published April 25 in Le Figaro said the pope looked fatigued at times during his U.S. visit. It's no secret, the newspaper said, that the pope has a "fragile heart."

Le Figaro said the pope had reduced the number of meetings and audiences before and after the U.S. trip and noted that he had not held his weekly general audience two days after his return.

Father Lombardi said a general audience for April 23 was never on the papal calendar. He also pointed out that the pope had resumed his regular schedule, meeting with bishops from the Caucasus April 24 and pronouncing his speech in its entirety.

On April 27, the pope presided over a two-and-a-half-hour ordination Mass at the Vatican, then spent 20 minutes greeting pilgrims from his apartment window above St. Peter's Square.

The pope is scheduled to make several more trips inside and outside Italy this year. In mid-May he goes to Genoa in northern Italy, in June to southern Italy, and in September to Sardinia. In July he will travel to Australia for World Youth Day, and in September he plans to visit Paris and the Marian sanctuary at Lourdes in southern France.

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