Monday, June 10, 2013

Pope Emeritus' health; fresh concerns

This last photograph of Pope Benedict and his successor had me worried about him.
I am not a clothes person, but his cassock looks as though it was made for some else. The shoulder of his sleeve has dropped considerably and the cuff looks as if it has folded back almost to the elbow to compensate, and generally there is just too much cloth. Rome Reports spoke last week of a journalists visit to him, and his comment that he had physically diminished.

Ethelreda's Place also has this report:
"Benedict is in a very bad way," said Paloma Gomez Borerro, a veteran Vatican correspondent for Spain's Telecino who visited the former pope in late May. "We won't have him with us much longer."
Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne, Germany, and a personal friend of Benedict's, visited the former pope in April.
"I was shocked at how thin he had become," Meisner said at the time. "Mentally, he is quite fit, his old self. But he had halved in size."
Vatican officials have admitted Benedict has weakened since stepping down, but they deny his physical condition has become critical.
I had never thought that Benedict "would flee from the wolves", and despite his obvious disappointment at betrayal by a member of his personal staff and the whole "vatileaks" thing, it would seem quite out of character to just get up and go. What would seem in character is a desire to avoid a long public death, of growing increasingly frail in public and less able in private. In the time between his resignation and his departure he himself had said it was simply because of old age.

In short, what he wanted to avoid was a death like John Paul II's with all the uncertainty that brought about, with the tussle, primarily between the CDF and the Secretariate of State under Cardinal Sodano. Remember how Ratzinger had to wrestle to get the the CDF to take responsibility for child abuse away from the Secretariate, how Sodano had dismissed the whole matter as a "press gossip", and the problems afterwards with getting Sodano out and Bertone in to the Secretary of States Apartment, which act as "gate" to the Apoostolic Apartments and therefore monitor who had access to the Pope - remember those unsavoury characters like Marcel Maciel who had access, via Sodano and his personal secretary Stanisław Dziwisz, to JPII, whilst others were denied access. I think that accounts for one reason why Francis wisely has two "homes", he uses the Apostolic Apartment for work but lives in Santa Marta. It is not simplicity or humility - there are no gate-keepers at Santa Marta.
Many "insiders" suggest that appointments and policy for several years before his death were very much out of the control of JPII, his seal and signature was used without his knowledge or comprehension, Vatican departments were forced to side with one faction or another, which resulted in Curia becoming out of control and unfocused, "biting one another" as Benedict said, continuing the lupine metaphor.

This is what Benedict wanted to avoid, pray for him.


Anonymous said...

"his seal and signature was used without his knowledge or comprehension"
Is there any evidence for that?
If that statement is true then everything issued by the Holy See is questionable.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr E.,
A lot depends on how how concious he was in his latter months.

The Holy See suggested his inability was really limited only to difficulties in speech and mobility.
Whilst others suggested at the time, he had great difficulty in concentrating and communicating for months or even years before his death.
The thing is the Church has to continue whatever the the Pope's health, even if he is completely senile.

Terry Nelson said...

Dear Fr. Blake, though the cassock does seem a bit large for the Holy Father, I wonder if it just looks a bit odd since he is no longer wearing the pellegrina. I think the sleeves are not turned back but rather he is wearing a traditional sleeve cuff. He is also not wearing the fascia.

That said, he does look frail.

Delia said...

Cardinal Meisner also said that he did not agree with Pope Benedict's resignation at first, but that when he saw him his 'reservations melted away'.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Interesting, and somewhat alarming.

You're right that the Church must continue, without regard for the infirmity of the Pope. However, the allegation is that documents were purported to have been published with the approval of JPII, at a time when he was incapable of approving of anything. I don't know that we will ever know the truth in this life; Parkinson's disease can progress in several ways, and in some (arguably the worst) cases, can leave a perfectly lucid mind trapped within an increasingly incapable body. If it is indeed the case that decisions and pronouncements by "JPII" were in fact made in his name and without his cognizance, then that is a very smelly bowl of fish indeed.

On the matter of senile popes, perhaps there needs to be a clear protocol of how the Vatican operates in situations where the Pope is "present but not all there" (together with a procedure for establishing this as fact), along the lines of the protocol for Sede Vacante.

Katalina said...

For the LAST TIME NOW the Pope Emeritus is NOT SERIOUSLY ILL OR DYING. Just last week I saw on Rome Reports video that says Benedict was visited by a German Newspaper reporter who claimed that yes while he was thin and stooped over in his posture the Pope Emeritus told him and I quote " I am FINE. I am living like a Monk" If the Pope himself says he's OK why don't we believe him?. This woman reporter is WRONG.

Annie said...

It's my belief that the general population has little contact with elderly people nowadays so that when they do see someone old up close it comes as a shock. In the U.S., many older people move into 'assisted living' facilities instead of staying with family members when they begin to get frail or even in anticipation of when they'll get frail and then how much are they seen? Walk around any mall or even down any street and count the number of older people you see - there won't be many of them. This is very different from a time when older people lived with their children, sat on their front porches or in parks, and attended church services or local events along with everyone else. Not having them with us leads to many sad things, including a collective insomnia about the past and an absence of the wisdom that comes from their advanced years. I remember as a child being sent over to do small things for our elderly neighbors, such as dusting their furniture or taking out their trash or mowing their lawns. They'd have lemonade and cookies waiting as a reward and we'd sit out on their porches while they asked us about school and what we did with our friends. A lot of these people were great storytellers who told us tales from the vanished worlds of their own youth. What a loss that we are so separated from them anymore. These days old people are expected to go off and vanish somewhere so we don't have to look at them or take care of them or be reminded that our youth doesn't last forever.

gemoftheocean said...

Doesn't surprise me at all. I suspected from the beginning that he was in the beginning stages of knowing something had gone wrong with him physically, and he just decided he didn't want to see another rehash of what happened to JPII play out.

Rose said...

Whatever the reasons for Benedict's resignation, it has clearly achieved at least 2 things:
1) An efficient handover without yrs of curial officials vying for power whilst an ailing pope lingers in the background.
2) For the 1st time a Pope had been able to brief his own successor.

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