Pope Benedict was wheeled up the main aisle of St Peter’s Basilica on a mobile platform at the start of a ceremony on Sunday to spare him the unnecessary fatigue of walking. The 84-year-old pontiff stood on the platform as aides pushed it up the central aisle, which is about 100 metres (yards) long. Wearing green vestments, he blessed the faithful as he was made his way up then celebrated Mass from the main altar. He appeared to be in good health.
“This is just not to tire him,” chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. “Nothing else should be read into the general state of his health, which is good.”
The platform, which has three steps and brass handles, was built to transport the late Pope John Paul during the last five years of his life. John Paul, however, had suffered a broken femur and had undergone hip replacement surgery.
The pope, who was elected in 2005 after John Paul’s death, has appeared to be in generally good health, although Vatican sources say he suffers from high blood pressure.
From the start of his papacy, Benedict’s schedule of public and private engagements has been far less hectic than that of his predecessor.