Pope Benedict’s resignation prompted by medical advice, claims new book

Author says advice from his doctor confirmed what pontiff had been thinking

A new book claims that pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign the papacy a year ago was prompted by medical advice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A new book claims that pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign the papacy a year ago was prompted by medical advice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00

A new book claims that pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign the papacy a year ago was prompted by medical advice.

In Diary Of A Vaticanista , Gianluca Barile says that while Benedict had been thinking of resignation, it was the advice of his doctor, Patrizio Polisca, that prompted him to make the decision.

In particular, Dr Polisca advised Benedict against going to Brazil last summer to preside over the World Youth Day celebrations.

Mr Barile claims that Benedict took the advice as an indication that perhaps the time had come to step down from the seat of Peter.


World Youth Day
“When questioning my source [in the Vatican] about his motivation [for resigning], I was told that the opinion of the papal doctor, Patrizio Polisca, had had a major role in his choice. Dr Polisca had indeed strongly advised, on health grounds, against pope Benedict attending the World Youth Day celebrations in Rio,” writes Mr Barile.

He claims the doctor’s advice prompted the pontiff to consider his resignation. Benedict’s reasoning was that if he were not well enough to attend the Rio event, then it would be much better for him to step down, so a successor would be able to attend it, as indeed Pope Francis did.

Many Vatican commentators would agree that Benedict had been meditating on the possibility of resignation for some time.


‘Vatileaks’
Many would argue, however, that the straw that broke the camel’s back was not medical advice but an internal report by three senior cardinals into the “Vatileaks” affair, the theft of confidential documents from the papal apartment by Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele.

The cardinals alleged that various “lobbies”, including a gay lobby, exercised an “inappropriate influence” in Holy See affairs.

La Repubblica reported at the time that such was Benedict’s dismay when presented with the details of the report on December 17th, 2012, that it hardened his long-meditated decision to resign.

More prosaically, other commentators, including most authoritatively the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano , argued that Benedict had made his original decision to resign shortly after his visit to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, when he had a fall.