Wizard of Wires
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Not sure
I read this today...
VATICAN CITY (April 21) - Pope Benedict XVI himself predicted a "short reign" in comments to cardinals just after his election, and his brother said Wednesday he was worried about the stress the job would put on the 78-year-old pontiff.
While there are no indications that Benedict currently suffers from any serious or chronic medical problems, there have been ailments in the past - including a 1991 hemorrhagic stroke - that raise questions about how long his pontificate will last.
The Vatican refused to comment Wednesday on Benedict's health, citing his privacy. The Vatican never officially confirmed Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson's disease until after he died.
Several cardinals, however, acknowledged that at 78, Benedict's term will be marked in years, not decades, and that he likely will not be the globe-trotting pope that John Paul became after taking the helm of the Roman Catholic Church at 58.
"We'll see what he feels like. I mean he's not a 56-year-old, you know," said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. "He's a little bit older than that. So he may not do too much traveling. But you never know."
Benedict himself referred to his tenure in comments to cardinals just after his election, when he explained his choice of the name Benedict XVI, the pope who served from 1914-22 and had worked to prevent World War I during his brief papacy.
Chicago Cardinal Francis George said Ratzinger had told the cardinals, "I too hope in this short reign to be a man of peace."
While he has no apparent history of chronic health problems, the German was hospitalized at least twice in the early 1990s, including in September 1991 after he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that temporarily affected his left field of vision, according to Time magazine and Vatican journalist John Allen in his 2000 book "Cardinal Ratzinger." There is no indication that it left any lingering health difficulties.
A hemorrhagic stroke can be caused by many things, including high blood pressure, head injury or weak blood vessels that can burst. It is different from an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels leading to brain.
In August 1992, during a vacation in the Italian Alps, Ratzinger was knocked unconscious when he fell against a radiator and bled profusely, Time and the Italian news agency ANSA reported at the time.
Time quoted him as saying a year later: "Thank God, there are hardly any traces of it now."
German prelates have expressed concern about Ratzinger's health. One young priest from Cologne, who asked not to be identified, told AP in Rome that Benedict has trouble sleeping and has a "delicate constitution." The new pope's brother had expressed a similar concern in a television interview.
Benedict's brother, Georg Ratzinger, told The Associated Press on Wednesday from Regensburg, Germany, that he was concerned about his brother's health and the stress the office will put on him.
"I'm not very happy," Georg Ratzinger said. "He's OK, and his health is good. I just wish for him, that his health holds out and that his office isn't a worry and a nuisance to him."
Ratzinger, the oldest pope elected since Clement XII in 1730, clearly was chosen as a "transitional" pope, who would fulfill the unfinished business of John Paul's quarter-century papacy yet not be another long-term pope.
Yet in electing someone who had repeatedly asked John Paul to let him retire - and been refused - there was also the possibility that the world would watch another pope slowly succumb to age and ailments on a very public stage. Benedict was the oldest pontiff elected in 275 years.
"Obviously he's 78 so he's not going to have decades ahead of him, but he has a lot of zeal and energy, and he has already committed himself fully to the work ahead of him," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony told CNN.
Thomas Frauenlob, director of St. Michael's seminary in Traunstein where the pope studied as a youth and still visits annually, said he had never heard of any major ailments.
"He seems healthy," said Frauenlob, who last saw him over the New Year's holiday. "He comes and eats and drinks whatever he wants."
(Associated Press reporters Frances D'Emilio, Rachel Zoll, Daniela Petroff in Rome and Maria Marquardt in Regensburg, Germany, contributed to this report.)