(Photo: Reuters/Osservatore Romano)
The Vatican admitted on Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI has been fitted with a pacemaker for his heart after an operation a number of years ago, but denied that there was any one particular health issue behind the pontiff's decision to retire at the end of February.
Benedict XVI, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, shocked many Monday morning with the announcement that he would be stepping down from his position at the end of the month.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," the pope said in a statement.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi addressed some rumors circling the pope's health today, and said that there is no specific health condition that the pope is struggling with, besides the general ailments that come with old age, ABC's Good Morning America shared.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke added that the pope underwent a routine heart operation a few months ago but said that it was nothing serious.
"The pope's health right now is what you see, of an 85-year-old, who is almost 86, and who is starting to slow," Burke explained. "He does have that heart condition. That was not the reason for the resignation. People have pacemaker batteries replaced all the time. His mind is clear. It's more in mobility, and slowing down a bit." Lombardi noted that Benedict had the pacemaker installed before he became pope in 2005.
As for rumors that Benedict may be suffering from bone cancer, the Vatican spokesman said that it was "certainly not true." Benedict becomes the first pope in over 600 years to resign from his post, which many Catholic commentators have praised, saying that he is placing the church before himself.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, commented on Monday: "On the other hand, my appreciation for him, which was already high, is enhanced a bit, because with this sense of realism that he has for the office of the successor of St. Peter that he says 'You know, I may not be up to it now, and perhaps I can best serve Jesus and His people by stepping aside.' So I have to admire him."
Benedict will live at a convent inside the Vatican, which will serve as his retirement home, and Lombardi noted that it is unlikely the pontiff will get involved in the process of choosing his successor, which will be left to the main cardinals in Rome.
"I assume if the new pope wants to ask for his council, he's clearly going to give it," Burke added. "But he's not going to go be there looking to try to influence the new pope."