Vatican Reporter Reveals Exclusive Details On Benedict XVI's Failing Health

Signs of decline began to appear two years ago, leading the Pope's doctor to insist on limited air travel. Portrait of an old and weak man, who may have had little choice but resignation.

Benedict XVI celebrating mass in Fatima in 2010. His health would soon after start to decline.
Benedict XVI celebrating mass in Fatima in 2010. His health would soon after start to decline.
Marco Tosatti

VATICAN CITY- There’s a lot of talk of intrigue and scandals since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Anything is possible, of course. But in the last few days I’ve looked back on the information I'd collected over the last few months and years on the state of the Pope’s health, gathered from those who are close to him. I had vowed to keep all the details confidential, to not reveal anything while Benedict still held his position.

His resignation announcement has freed me of these promises, and in examining my notes, a portrait appears of a man with a progressive deterioration of health and energy; a state that fully justifies the difficult decision that Benedict has taken.

A note from two years ago reads:

“The pope isn’t able to sleep at night and he refuses to take any sedatives. Because of this, he often appears tired. And those who love him insist that in the afternoons, no appointments or meetings can be organized before 5 pm, so that he is able to rest a little, especially during trips.

But, his appointments pile up quickly after lunch, at 3:30 and so on. His personal physician, Dr. Patrizio Polisca says that he can go on, if he keeps calm and manages it well, especially if he keeps his blood pressure under control. The blood pressure, at the moment, is the main problem because it was having strong fluctuations. Dr. Polisca said most of all be careful of the airplanes. He insists that he spends as little time as possible on planes, because that's where the risks come from.”

And in effect, the Pontiff expressively said that the trip scheduled July 2013 to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day would not be happening.

Again, from two years ago:

“Another problem, during the trips he falls out of bed if it is too small. In Val d’Aosta, when he broke his wrist, it was because he had fallen out of the bed. When he was in Malta they prepared an incredible room for him, full of beautiful art and furniture, with a Napoleonic bed and a canopy which was incredibly beautiful, but really very narrow. He couldn’t close his eyes for the entire night because he was so scared of falling out. The following morning, during mass, he was sleeping and one of the assistants had to wake him up, touching his arm. “I didn’t close my eyes once last night,” Benedict XVI said to him offering an excuse.

Benedict’s biographer, Peter Seewald, confirmed very recently what I found out 18 months ago: “He confirmed that from one eye, his left, he has almost lost all vision in it which creates problems when there are steps, particularly when there are solemn masses when he must turn around to the altar with the incense.”

“He tires very quickly.” This is the statement so often repeated. “He has an enormous difficulty getting up in the morning; sometimes he sleeps for nine hours at a stretch because he needs to rest.”

From last summer and this past autumn: he began to “feel week and he says it now whereas before, he wouldn’t even mention it.” He uses the walking stick at home as well, because his right hip and ankle pain him.

They probably give him occasional (shots of) cortisone to help alleviate the pain. But as well as that, those who are with him during the afternoons see that he doesn’t go for walks to see the new flowers planted by the gardeners like he used to. Now, he just takes a few steps and sits on a nearby bench as if he doesn’t have the energy, or even the curiosity, to go and have a look.

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Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

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