VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI used a wheeled platform to move up the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica before Mass on Sunday (Oct. 16), in what his spokesman said was a measure to “reduce fatigue” on the 84-year-old pope.
Instead of walking the more than 300 feet to the basilica’s main altar, Benedict stood on the platform, which was pushed by aides. Benedict held his shepherd’s crook in one hand and used his other hand to hold on to a bar on the platform. Benedict occasionally waved to the congregation.
The platform was previously used by the late Pope John Paul II in his last years, when he suffered from advanced Parkinson’s disease.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s top spokesman, told reporters that there was no “medical reason” for Benedict to use the platform now.
“The purpose is exclusively to alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father, as already happens with his use of the Popemobile during entrance processions in outdoor ceremonies and in St. Peter’s Square,” Lombardi said. “Nothing else should be read into the general state of his health, which is good.”
Benedict maintains an active schedule, including international travel. During his four-day state visit to his native Germany last month, he delivered more than a dozen public speeches; next month, he travels to the west African country of Benin.
This is not the first time that the elderly pope has taken measures to conserve his energy. Since 2009, he has celebrated the Christmas vigil Mass in St. Peter’s at 10 p.m. instead of the traditional midnight start time.