Pope Benedict XVI has pacemaker, Vatican says health issues played no role in shocking resignation

By Daniel S Levine,

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world on Monday by announcing his resignation at the end of the month. While many speculated that the 85-year-old reached the decision over health concerns, the Vatican said otherwise on Tuesday. However, it did confirm that the pope has a pacemaker.

In his resignation letter, Pope Benedict wrote that the office requires “both strength of mind and body.” He added, “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.”

Many around the world interpreted that to mean that the pope’s health was the main reason for the decision. But, according to CNN, a Vatican spokesperson said that the pope feels that he doesn’t have the strength to stay in office. Rev. Federico Lombardi called it a “spiritual” decision.

Lombardi did confirm that the pope underwent pacemaker surgery three months ago, though. He stressed that Pope Benedict has had a pacemaker since before he took office and it was just a routine procedure.

On Good Morning America, Vatican spokesman Greg 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.”

Burke also shot down rumors that the pope has bone cancer.

The pope will end his tenure at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. The conclave will be called between 15 and 20 days later, when the cardinals will be called to elect a new pope. This is the first time a pope has resigned in almost 600 years.

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