Benedict turns 85 in the new year, so a slowdown is only natural. Expected. And given his age and continued rigorous work schedule, it's remarkable he does as much as he does and is in such good health overall: Just this past week he confirmed he would travel to Mexico and Cuba next spring.
But a decline has been noted as Benedict prepares for next weekend's grueling Christmas celebrations, which kick off two weeks of intense public appearances. And that raises questions about the future of the papacy given that Benedict himself has said popes should resign if they can't do the job.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi has said no medical condition prompted the decision to use the moving platform in St. Peter's, and that it's merely designed to spare the pontiff the fatigue of the 100-meter (-yard) walk to and from the main altar.
And Benedict rallied during his three-day trip to Benin in west Africa last month, braving temperatures of 32 Celsius (90F) and high humidity to deliver a strong message about the future of the Catholic Church in Africa.
Wiping sweat from his brow, he kissed babies who were handed up to him, delivered a tough speech on the need for Africa's political leaders to clean up their act, and visited one of the continent's most important seminaries.
Back at home, however, it seems the daily grind of being pope — the audiences with visiting heads of state, the weekly public catechism lessons, the sessions with visiting bishops — has taken its toll. A spark is gone. He doesn't elaborate off-the-cuff much anymore, and some days he just seems wiped out [more]."But Benedict is not a normal 84-year-old," wrote Winfield, "both in what he is called to do and the implications if he were to stop."
Winfield further rightly observes, "Clearly, at his age Benedict has good days and bad, even good half-days and bad."
It is because of these (half)bad days that Elizabeth Scalia wrote (emphasis original):
Our dear Papa is old and has more than earned his rest. But he has important work to do — miles to go before he sleeps. Pray for this transparently holy and humble servant of Christ, that he finds rest, comfort and consolation when he needs it, and vigor when he needs that, too.
This seems a sudden and troubling decline. Of course he cannot live forever — and what a remarkable life he has had, lived entirely for Christ — but I pray we get to have him among us for a while, yet! Not as glamorous as his predecessor, but nevertheless, a punch-packer, a quiet riot; I do dearly love this pope, whom I believe we will someday call a saint.I think she's right: we will one day call him a saint, and I've thought so for a very long time. My devotion to this Successor of Peter is not hidden.
Because of my arthritis, I know well what it is like to have "good days and bad, even good half-days and bad." I know what it is like to have to be "on" when you have no energy left and would rather be lying down, resting.
It seems this winter my arthritis will affect the backs of my hips more than my other joints (the days when it affected my knees and fingers were, though more frustrating, easier to get through), often making it painful to sit or stand for even short lengths of time (when walking or lying down I am quite fine). Consequently, I will seek to offer my sufferings this winter in union with the sufferings of our Savior for Pope Benedict XVI, remembering the words of Saint Paul:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church (Colossians 1:24).Please join me in praying for the Holy Father, that the Lord will grant him what strength he needs together with time sufficient for rest and relaxation. He has labored well, and humbly, in the Lord's vineyard; may the Lord reward his faithful servant and steward!
Particularly, I pray for two things for Pope Benedict XVI:
- That he finds time to finish his writings on the Incarnation of the Son of the God, which he promised us in the first volume of his great work, Jesus of Nazareth; and,
- That I am able to meet him when I accompany Bishop Paprocki on his ad limina visit.
O God, who chose your servant Benedict XVI
in succession to the Apostle Peter
as shepherd of the whole flock,
look favorably on the supplications of your people
and grant that, as Vicar of Christ on earth,
he may confirm his brethren
and that the whole Church may be in communion with him
in the bond of unity, love and peace,
so that in you, the shepherd of souls,
all may know the truth and attain life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Roman Missal