‘Nearly blind’ pope advised to limit air travel

The report also said the 85-year-old pontiff often has problems sleeping and has fallen out of bed several times in recent years on foreign trips, making him tired in public appearances.

The report was based on indiscretions from papal aides that Vatican affairs specialist Marco Tosatti said he had promised to keep secret until the end of the pontificate on February 28.

"The picture is of a progressive deterioration of his health and his energy – a context that fully justifies the difficult decision that the pope has taken," Tosatti wrote after the pope said he would step down due to old age.

The report cited the pope's doctor Patrizio Polisca saying two years ago that Benedict's blood pressure was having "major jumps" and insisting that he spend "as little time as possible in a plane because of the dangers".

Tosatti added that Benedict had been expressly advised not to make the transatlantic flight to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day later this year.

In his report, Tosatti also said the pope could "almost no longer see" out of his left eye and therefore had to be helped up and down steps.

Hit his head and bled
The report said Benedict even began using a walking stick to get around his own residence last year because his left hip and knee were hurting.

The Vatican last week revealed the pope had hit his head and bled during a trip to Mexico last year and underwent surgery three months ago to replace the batteries in a pacemaker he was fitted with while he was still a cardinal.

According to the Mail & Guardian last week, the pope announced his resignation in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning. He said that because of his advanced age and diminishing strength, he didn't feel he could carry on the job. 

The German-born Pope, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.

His papacy has been beset by a child sexual abuse crisis that tarnished the church, one address in which he upset Muslims and a scandal over the leaking of his private papers by his personal butler. – AFP

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